Tar Heels get up early, hold Cavs at bay

Once Cormac Ryan hit his first of six three pointers to put the Tar Heels ahead early in the game, North Carolina never trailed and held off the deliberate Virginia squad 54-44. (2/17)

It was the first time since Feb. 25 of 2012 that Carolina has won in Charlottesville.

Ryan, who led the Tar Heels with 18 points, hit five threes in the first half as UNC got up by as much as 13 points and led 26-16 at the half in the low scoring affair.

The Heels, who had a week to work on their game, did what they wanted to do – tighten the screws defensively. The Cavaliers shot just 27 percent from the floor as Carolina held them to just two of 14 from beyond the arc.

“The week off gave us a chance to work on us,” UNC coach Hubert Davis said. “I thought defensively we were tied together today. Our defensive effort was really good.”

That was particularly impressive considering that Armando Bacot, one of Carolina’s best defensive players and leading rebounder, sat the last 12-plus minutes of the first half in foul trouble. Bacot still managed another double-double as he finished with 10 points and 13 rebounds.

Ryan said that the Tar Heels were locked in defensively because of a great week of practice. “We were well prepared,” he said. “We made them make tough shots and we made them take the shots we wanted them to take.”

Virginia made things tough on Carolina as well as the Tar Heels managed to shoot only 32 percent themselves, the lowest output of the season. The usual top scorer, RJ Davis, made just one of 14 shots on the day but he did hit nine of 10 free throws, including four in a row after the Wahoos pulled to within five points with 2:13 to go.

“Whatever it takes,” Coach Davis said about Carolina winning at Virginia. “I’m proud of what the guys did – to come in this environment against a good team. This was a huge win for us.”

Virginia, now 20-8 and 11-6 in the ACC, was led by James Minor’s 12 points and 10 rebounds.

The Tar Heels, now a game up in first place following Wake Forest’s victory over Duke, improves to 21-6 and 13-3 in the ACC. Carolina starts a three-game homestand Monday night against Miami.

For a box score and more on the game, please click here.