by Sharon Thorsland
It’s a big game for North Carolina on Tuesday night. The Tar Heels take on #13 Virginia in Charlottesville, looking to extend their modest two game winning streak. The Heels are coming off an impressive performance over Notre Dame, improving to 11-5 on the year, 3-2 in the ACC. The Cavaliers (11-3, 3-2) beat Syracuse on Saturday and have won three of their last four games. Tip-off is set for 9:00 on WBT.
As usual, Virginia plays a slow-paced game, they’re averaging 70 points per game. They’ve got a trio of veteran players averaging 11 points per game in Kihei Clark, Aaman Franklin and Jaylen Gardner. Clark seems like he’s been at Virginia for ten years! It’s actually only been five, but the senior guard makes this Virginia team run. He’s averaging over six assists per game and is shooting nearly 41 percent from three. So is Franklin, and junior guard Reece Beekman is hitting half of his shots from deep. The Cavaliers are definitely a perimeter oriented team this season, so the Tar Heel guards will need to step up their defense.
UNC should have an advantage inside and on the glass, though. The Heels are averaging nearly 40 rebounds per game while the Cavaliers check in at 32 a contest. Their top rebounder is Gardner at 5.3 per game – he’ll be challenged by the ACC rebounding leader Armando Bacot, who more than doubles that number. Look for the Tar Heels to try and dominate on the glass and hurt the Cavaliers in transition.
Scoring against Virginia is not easy, the Cavaliers are allowing just 59.6 points per game. Their pack line defense has given the Tar Heels fits over the years, they’ve scored more than 70 points just once in the past nine matchups, and they managed less than 50 points in four of those games. They’ll need to do better than that to escape with a win Tuesday night.
History is not on UNC’s side in this one. The Tar Heels beat the Cavaliers twice last season, in Chapel Hill and the ACC tournament. But they’ve lost seven straight in Charlottesville, and the Heels are 0-3 in true road games this season. Can they snap that losing streak in John Paul Jones arena? It won’t be easy but I think they can do it. Go Tar Heels!