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No. 5 men’s basketball downs No. 7 North Carolina 56-47 in top-10 ACC contest

The Cavaliers recorded their fifth-straight win against the Tar Heels program Sunday

<p>Junior guard Tomas Woldetensae scored 11 points for the Cavaliers in the victory.</p>

Junior guard Tomas Woldetensae scored 11 points for the Cavaliers in the victory.

Following its first loss to Purdue Wednesday, No. 5 men’s basketball rebounded to defeat No. 7 North Carolina at John Paul Jones Arena Sunday afternoon, running away with the lead in the final minutes of the matchup. The Cavaliers (8-1, 2-0 ACC) combined strong defense with enough points on offense to bring down the talented Tar Heels (6-3, 1-1 ACC) in their most difficult game thus far. The teams fought for the lead throughout the game, but senior forward Mamadi Diakite, junior guard Tomas Woldetensae and redshirt freshman Francisco Caffaro combined for 33 points to lead the team to a 56-47 victory. 

“Look, we’re far from perfect, Carolina and us are both trying to keep finding our way, but you just have to fight,” said Coach Tony Bennett. “You got to grind it out and that’s kind of who we are this year.”

Virginia’s defense stifled freshman guard Cole Anthony, who shot just 1-for-6 from behind the arc and was 26.7 percent from the field. Freshman forward Armando Bacot was similarly quiet as the pack line managed to shut down North Carolina and hold them to under 50 points.

The game got off to a slow start for both teams as Virginia’s defense matched the pace of the North Carolina offense. The Tar Heels had a multitude of looks from the field, but the Cavaliers applied the necessary pressure to win the ball back. Junior forward Garrison Brooks opened the scoring for North Carolina to put the Tar Heels on the board first. 

After struggling to convert its field goals, Virginia was finally able to score off of three free throws courtesy of Diakite, putting the Cavaliers up 3-2. 

Sophomore guard Kihei Clark failed to convert on two big plays at the start of the first half, driving into the paint but missing crucial layups. However, with under nine minutes to play, freshman guard Casey Morsell made his first three-pointer of the afternoon. 

The Cavaliers then followed up a Tar Heel turnover with a three from Woldetensae, sending the Virginia crowd into mayhem as Virginia went up 12-5. 

North Carolina responded with a pair of field goals, but Diakite contributed five points, including a three to propel the Cavaliers to a 17-9 lead with just over five minutes to go.

In the remaining minutes of the half, the Tar Heels managed to close the gap to 17-16 with contributions by Bacot, sophomore guard Leaky Black and Anthony. With under two minutes to go, however, Virginia jumped ahead 24-18 with a layup by Caffaro, a three by Woldetensae and a final layup by sophomore guard Kody Stattmann heading into the half. 

Neither team managed to impress on the offensive end, as Virginia was 8-25 and North Carolina was 7-23 from the field in the first half. The Tar Heels had key opportunities from behind the arc but were just 0-8, allowing the Cavaliers to hold on to the lead. 

The two teams battled back and forth to open the second half, with Woldetensae tallying this third three of the afternoon to extend Virginia’s lead to 27-20. However, Bacot and Anthony followed it up with a layup and three, respectively, to keep North Carolina within striking distance at 27-25. 

Virginia continued on a 12-6 run, sealed with a three by Stattmann to give the Cavaliers a 39-31 lead with under 14 minutes to go. In the following minutes, the Tar Heels pieced together points while Clark, Woldetensae and freshman forward Justin McKoy contributed points from the free throw line to extend the lead to 10 points at 45-35 with 8:34 remaining. 

Caffaro then scored four points in the ensuing two minutes, as Anthony and the Tar Heels struggled to find an answer against the pack line. 

“For me it’s very disappointing,” North Carolina Coach Roy Williams said. “We try to play at a fast pace, try to score, and to go one-for-14 … I’m beside myself, since the last year, last two years, last three years I’ve gotten to be the worst coach I can ever remember.”

With under five minutes remaining, North Carolina tried to full-courts Virginia to force quick turnovers, but the Cavaliers responded well. Virginia rebounded from last week’s loss to Purdue, defeating the Tar Heels 56-47.  

Diakite led Virginia with 12 points while Woldetensae and Caffaro contributed 11 and 10, respectively. Clark similarly played a crucial role, adding six assists and three steals. 

The Cavaliers will get a break before their next game against Stony Brook Dec. 18. The home contest is set to tip-off at 6:30 p.m. and will be broadcast on the ACC Network.