No. 14 Virginia takes on ACC leader No. 10 North Carolina
Virginia men’s basketball team looks to bounce back from loss with road win
Two teams who have recently suffered losses to Duke will square off, as No. 14 Virginia travels to Chapel Hill, N.C. to take on No. 10 North Carolina Saturday night.
The Cavaliers (18-7, 8-5 ACC) fell to the Blue Devils (21-5, 9-4 ACC) in a 55-65 matchup in front of its home crowd at John Paul Jones Arena — making it the second loss in a row for the Cavaliers.
“I mean, you really want to win,” coach Tony Bennett said. “But, it’s a fine line and we are in so many close games. In this one we played hard, but we were outplayed. And that’s the reality against Duke. I can’t say if we had just gotten this one call it would have been different. We do need to shoot better, but they were the better team tonight.”
On offense, Duke was led by freshman forward Jayson Tatum, who had a career-high 28 points — with 21 of those points coming in the second half. Defensively, Duke managed to hold Virginia to the fewest points it's scored all season.
“As weird as it sounds, I think this was one of our best defensive games,” senior guard London Perrantes said. “There were just tough plays at the end of the game by [Tatum]. I really think that it was like a Virginia team a couple years ago where we were just putting it all on the line on the defensive end.We just have to find a way to keep battling.”
Perrantes was the leading scorer for the Cavaliers with 14 points — despite only shooting one of five from three-point range. Freshman guard Ty Jerome also came up big for the Cavaliers, recording 13 points — the most points he has ever scored against an ACC opponent.
On the whole, Virginia’s offense struggled, as it shot just 36.8 percent overall and only made 25 percent of its threes.
“I think we worked incredibly hard to be as ready as we could be in the first half,” Bennett said. “But, every time we needed a stop they would put the dagger in us with a late shot clock play or a deep three. We are working hard to become a better defensive team, and we have to get better for 40 minutes, but it’s not for a lack of trying. They tried hard tonight and it wasn’t enough.”
Wednesday night’s game marks the second-straight loss in which the Cavaliers couldn’t hold on to their halftime lead. While these losses have been difficult for everyone on the team, they have been especially unfamiliar territory for Perrantes — one of Virginia’s winningest players in program history.
“It’s not something I’m used to,” Perrantes said. “But as a leader of the team, I just have to keep my head up, keep my spirits high, because we have games to play. We have another tough one Saturday. We’re just trying to keep everybody’s spirits high, because we need everybody confident as we’re going into postseason and the end of this season.”
Meanwhile, the Tar Heels (22-5, 10-3 ACC) — who are currently in first place in the conference — are coming off a convincing 97-73 win at NC State. In the win against the Wolfpack (14-13, 3-11 ACC), North Carolina shot 56 percent and junior guard Joel Berry II tallied up 18 points.
Berry II played a crucial role in defeating the Cavaliers in last year’s ACC tournament final, as he finished the night with 19 points and went a perfect three of three from downtown. The Tar Heels’ 61-57 win against the Cavaliers came after Virginia handed North Carolina a 79-74 loss in Charlottesville earlier in the season. Despite getting the win, the Cavaliers struggled with Berry II, as he led North Carolina with 21 points.
Although this year’s regular season will take place at the Dean Smith Center and not JPJ, the game will still be the featured site of ESPN’s College Gameday just as it was last year.
Tipoff is scheduled for 8:15 p.m Saturday, and then Virginia returns to Charlottesville to take on Miami Monday.