North Carolina Must Keep Momentum Rolling Against Virginia

By Gregory Philson
Tar Heels Defense
Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

North Carolina finally got the monkey off its back after picking up its first ACC victory of the season over Boston College at home Saturday. But that game will mean very little if the Tar Heels do not turn the first conference victory into back-to-back wins when they face Virginia at John Paul Jones Arena Monday.

North Carolina’s triumph over Boston College was definitely not a pretty one after the Eagles managed to hit 11 three-pointers and kept the game in doubt for much of the second half. North Carolina was able to pull away because the offense was able to shoot 53 percent from the field and the defense turned BC over 18 times. However, the defense also allowed way too many open shots and still did not display the intensity it did in the upsets earlier this season.

Virginia will offer a different challenge after the Cavaliers suffered their first ACC defeat of the season against Duke last week only to rebound extremely well in a 78-66 win over Florida State Saturday. Joe Harris showed exactly why he was so highly thought of coming into his senior campaign by scoring 18 points on 6-of-8 shooting with four three-pointers. North Carolina struggles against scoring guards and Harris will be yet another opponent who could put up big numbers.

Another problem facing the Tar Heels is controlling the ball against a defense that turned 18 FSU turnovers into 26 points. North Carolina was fortunate to only give up the ball 12 times against BC, but with the style Virginia plays, the Tar Heels will not be as lucky if they are as careless with the ball.

North Carolina did come out of the game against Boston College with some positives that may prove more important as the conference season continues. The Tar Heels had five players score in double figures with Marcus Paige leading the team with 21 points.

Paige took control because he went to the hoop more and did not settle with perimeter jumpers. James Michael McAdoo kept up with his stellar in-conference play as he dropped in 17 points, six rebounds and four blocks. However, the most important player of the game was Kennedy Meeks.

Meeks had been terrible in conference play and did not score against Syracuse. He scored 10 points and grabbed six rebounds against Boston College. The play of the interior for North Carolina is extremely important and may actually be the reason Carolina succeeds the rest of the way in the league. Virginia is solid inside, but most teams can not match up with UNC’s size and this should be a game where coach Roy Williams takes advantage of this match-up.

Picking up road conference wins is never an easy endeavor, but North Carolina desperately needs Monday’s game. The Tar Heels need to come out ready to run and cannot let Virginia control the pace. If the Tar Heels fall behind early, they will most likely lose and the victory over BC will be an afterthought.

Gregory T. Philson is an ACC college basketball writer at Follow him on Twitter @GTPhilson, “Like” him on Facebook and add him to your network on Google.

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