Virginia faced ACC-foe North Carolina Saturday night at Dean E. Smith Center, clinching a 64-62 victory with a three-pointer by junior guard Tomas Woldetensae. Both teams put on a show, trading the lead into the final seconds of the game. But the Cavaliers (17-7, 9-5 ACC) silenced the crowded stadium as Woldetensae drained his sixth three-pointer of the night with less than a second on the clock.
Virginia controlled the tempo in the early goings of the first half. Senior forward Mamadi Diakite opened the scoring with a jumper in the first 20 seconds, and freshman guard Cole Anthony quickly responded with his first three-pointer of the night. The Cavaliers and Tar Heels (10-15, 3-11 ACC) battled behind stifling defenses, but Woldetensae sank a three of his own to jumpstart a 7-2 Virginia run in the first five minutes of play.
Turnovers were a significant challenge for both teams, as there were a combined 16 in the first half alone. While North Carolina was able to tie the score at nine with 12:26 on the clock, redshirt freshman center Francisco Caffaro stole back the lead with his first points of the night. Virginia had a pair of opportunities to score off turnovers in the ensuing minutes, but couldn’t knock down its shots to pull away with the lead.
Both teams continued to trade points, and Anthony and junior forward Garrison Brooks combined to push the Tar Heels out front 16-15. The Cavaliers responded, however, and sophomore guard Kihei Clark contributed a pair of difficult layups, while Woldetensae sunk his second three-pointer to give Virginia a 25-20 lead at 3:28.
While the Cavaliers had every opportunity to run away with the lead off North Carolina’s 10 turnovers in the first half, the Tar Heels managed to tie the score 28-28 heading into the break. Brooks and Anthony scored 10 points apiece to keep North Carolina on track, while Diakite paced Virginia with eight points.
The Tar Heels brought the crowd to life in the second half, jumping out front in their first possession. Woldetensae, however, remained a threat from behind the arc for Virginia, sinking two more three-pointers to keep the Cavaliers in the game. At 15:27, Anthony sank another big three-pointer to give North Carolina a one-point advantage at 37-36.
Virginia pushed out to a six-point lead at 47-41 with under 10 minutes remaining, but Brooks shifted the momentum back to the Tar Heels, answering with a three-pointer followed by a dunk to cut the deficit to a single point. With two shots from the foul line, sophomore guard Leaky Black gave North Carolina the lead again at 48-47.
Woldetensae and freshman guard Casey Morsell drained back-to-back threes-pointers, but the Tar Heels were unwilling to give up as the game entered the final minutes. Battling back and forth, the Cavaliers led 57-55 at the under two-minute mark.
In a thrilling finish, North Carolina tied the game once again at 57-57. Diakite gave Virginia a three-point lead with under a minute to go, but Anthony answered back in similar fashion to get back within one point. With 10 seconds on the clock, Woldetensae sent graduate student guard Christian Keeling to the line with three shots, allowing the Tar Heels to jump ahead 62-61. However, in the remaining seconds of the game, Woldetensae redeemed himself, draining his sixth three-pointer of the night and giving Virginia the lead at 64-62. The shot silenced a crowd of screaming Tar Heel fans as the Cavaliers secured the road victory.
Virginia returns to John Paul Jones Arena Wednesday to face Boston College. Tipoff is set for 8 p.m., and the game will be broadcast on the ACC Network.