​Cold shooting leads to third straight loss for men’s basketball

No. 14 Virginia falls at No. 10 North Carolina


The shooting woes affected almost every player on coach Tony Bennett’s roster who saw considerable minutes Saturday.

Richard Dizon | Cavalier Daily

The No. 14 Virginia men’s basketball team (18-8, 8-6 ACC) shot just 27.8 percent from the floor Saturday night, falling to a more talented No. 10 North Carolina program, 65-41, at the Dean Dome.

“We fought hard against Duke and came up short,” coach Tony Bennett said. “[We] fought hard at Virginia Tech, played some quality ball, came up short. Tonight we weren’t even close, so we regroup. We battle. There are still a number of games left, and we’re still playing for stuff.”

Sophomore forward Justin Jackson led the Tar Heels (23-5, 11-3 ACC) with a game-high 20 points.

Knocking down four of six three-point attempts, the Wooden Award candidate scored 18 in the first half to spot North Carolina a 34-22 lead.

Star sophomore point guard Joel Berry II didn’t have his best offensive game, but he did do a terrific job defensively on his counterpart, as senior guard London Perrantes is the Cavaliers’ only player this season averaging double figures in scoring.

With Berry fighting through screens and on him step for step, Perrantes couldn’t find his rhythm and struggled to hit shots. He finished with 12 points on 3-of-10 attempts, and was just 1-6 from behind the arc.

Besides junior forward Isaiah Wilkins and junior guard Marial Shayok, who drained six of 12 looks and led Virginia with 13 points, the shooting woes affected every player on Bennett’s roster who saw considerable minutes.

Three of the Cavaliers most efficient scorers, junior Devon Hall, freshman Kyle Guy and freshman guard Ty Jerome, combined to take 18 shots — 10 of which were three pointers — and didn’t make a single one. As a team, Virginia shot 2-of-20 from three.

The Tar Heel’s physical man-to-man defense certainly had something to do with that.

Virginia got into big trouble after sophomore Jack Salt picked up his third foul with a little over six minutes remaining in the first half. Wilkins, who contributed seven points on three of seven shooting, had to bear the burden of Salt’s absence on the defensive end.

North Carolina then turned to its wealth of post players, including junior Isaiah Hicks, junior Kennedy Meeks, freshman Tony Bradley and even redshirt freshman Luke Maye.

Hicks tallied 10 points and a game-high eight rebounds, while Meeks added 13 points, seven boards and two assists. Bradley recorded only one point but was otherwise active, blocking three shots and snatching three rebounds. Maye chipped in five points, knocking down his only three-point attempt, and collected seven boards.

The Tar Heels outrebounded the Cavaliers 44-26 on the night. North Carolina shot 46.6 percent from regulation and 36.8 percent from three-point range. The six to nine turnover difference and free-throw margin in favor of Virginia had little to do in determining the victor.

With the loss Saturday, the Cavaliers dropped their third straight game. The last time that happened was in January 2011 when Virginia fell to North Carolina, Duke and Boston College. In only his second full season in Charlottesville, Bennett hadn’t established a winning program by that point.

The Cavaliers finished the season at a mediocre 16-15, were eliminated in the first game of the 2011 ACC Tournament and did not even receive an invitation to the NIT. Those days a three-game skid for Virginia probably wouldn’t have been in the national conversation, warranting a ticker mention at the bottom of ESPN.

Now, after following up the 55 point struggle against Duke with just 41 points over 40 minutes Saturday, it seems like the only thing anybody can talk about is how the Cavaliers have reverted back to those early Bennett years, to the “no-offense era.”

They have an argument. Granted, the performance against North Carolina was kind of an anomaly. If Guy, Jerome, Perrantes and Hall shoot anywhere near their averages, it’s a tighter contest. When somebody asked him in the post-game press conference if he was proud of his team’s defensive effort Saturday, Tar Heel head coach Roy Williams admitted Virginia hadn’t brought its usual, efficient offense.

“I have the utmost respect for [Tony Bennett] and his club, and I have never seen his team miss that many shots,” Williams said. “We were playing pretty well defensively sometimes, and sometimes they got wide-open shots and they just didn’t go in. That happens in the game of basketball.”

This year’s team doesn’t have the offense to overcome continual breakdowns on the other end. It can’t get into the business of trading buckets like it did at times against Pittsburgh, Florida State, Virginia Tech, Duke and others. But, when confident, the Cavaliers possess enough shotmaking in Perrantes, Shayok, Hall, Wilkins, Jerome and Guy to reach that magic number — say 66.

Nobody is 24 points better than Virginia. To beat Bennett’s program, it takes a Malachai Richardson, a Dwayne Bacon, a Jayson Tatum, a Jamel Artis or a gutsy team effort like West Virginia’s that still comes down to one or two possessions at the end. Sure, it was an ugly week. Everybody has them.

You can bet Williams expects the Cavaliers will give North Carolina a 40-minute fight when the teams meet again in eight days. For now, Virginia returns home for a matchup Monday with Miami (18-8, 8-6 ACC). Former Cavalier standout Malcolm Brogdon will have his No. 15 jersey retired prior to the contest.

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