CHAPEL HILL, N.C.-What do you do when you have to counter a 7-foot, 264-pound menace with a 6-foot-7 freshman who is 14 pounds lighter? You run.
Right past him, that is. That's exactly what Travis Watson and the rest of the Virginia men's basketball team did to Brendan Haywood and North Carolina yesterday. They strolled into the sold-out Dean Dome and blazed their way to a 14-point win, leaving Haywood, his Tar Heel teammates and 21,572 rabid fans behind in a cloud of smoke.
The Cavaliers used their speed to breeze past the taller Heel lineup, making it clear that bigger isn't always better.
"They are such a quick team and they did everything right," Carolina Coach Bill Guthridge said. "They know how to use their speed and they came out very well-prepared."
Guthridge tried several tactics to drench the Cavalier fire, including yanking all five starters and substituting five seldom-used reserves - two of them freshman - for three minutes at the end of the first half. The substitution came with 5:25 left in the half, and the starters could only watch from the bench as Virginia put together a 9-4 run to jump out to a game-high 18-point lead. The Cavaliers went into the locker room with a comfortable 46-33 lead but by no means a surefire victory.
"North Carolina is traditionally a second half team, so I was worried that they would make a comeback in the second half," Cav Coach Pete Gillen said. "I just told the team to keep playing aggressively and to not back down."
Virginia hit a small bump early in the second half, allowing Carolina to shrink the deficit to eight. Gillen immediately went to instant point-producer Keith Friel to put some fuel back into the offensive fire. Friel bounced off the bench, nailing 11 points in four minutes to regain the momentum for the Cavs.
"It's difficult because sometimes [when I come off the bench] it's been an hour since I've shot the ball, but it's my job to go out there and score," Friel said. "When I have an open look, I have to take it whether I've been in for 20 seconds or three minutes."
After Friel's frenzy, Virginia managed to keep the lead in double digits until the last two minutes of the game.
Gillen said he was confident the Cavs could match Carolina's bulk with their speed.
"They were bigger than us, but we're quicker jumpers," he said. "They're stronger and bigger, but we're faster, and we thought we could hurt them on the boards."
Haywood's presence was noticeably absent in the second half, and the Heels' leading rebounder registered only four boards to Watson's 11. Sophomore forward Chris Williams grabbed a game-high 12 rebounds for Virginia.
Guthridge went with a smaller lineup in the second half to combat the up-tempo Cavalier offense, but the wear and tear on the Tar Heels was obvious as they committed 16 turnovers, while Virginia only coughed up the ball eight times. Junior Donald Hand led the Cavs with three steals, while Williams, Adam Hall and Willie Dersch contributed two apiece.
The Heels were left wondering what hit them.
"We're not a slow team," Guthridge said, "but we certainly looked slow tonight"