CHAPEL HILL — More than three years had elapsed since Virginia allowed as many points as it did Saturday, and nearly five years since the Cavaliers allowed as many points against an ACC opponent.
North Carolina’s 93-81 victory represented a departure from the kind of grind-it-out effort that playing against Virginia usually requires. The Cavaliers last allowed as many points as they did on Saturday during a 106-63 loss against Washington in November 2010. No ACC team had scored as many against the Cavaliers as the Tar Heels did on Saturday since Georgia Tech’s 94-76 victory against Virginia in the 2008 ACC tournament.
“We didn’t want to play a game in the 50s,” said UNC point guard Marcus Paige, who finished with 17 points Saturday. “That’s where Virginia thrives. So we just tried to push the ball when we could and we made a lot of shots – especially in the second half. So that always helps.”
UNC’s 53 second-half points were more than Virginia had allowed in 11 games this season.
“They had us pretty much guessing, and a step behind,” Virginia coach Tony Bennett said.
Hairston scoring and rebounding: As pleased as UNC coach Roy Williams was with P.J. Hairston’s 29 points, a career-high, Williams might have appreciated another aspect of Hairston’s game more.
“The play that I liked was probably his offensive rebounding more than anything,” Williams said.
Hairston was UNC’s second-leading rebounder, with seven, on Saturday. Two of those were offensive rebounds.
Since going to a smaller lineup, Williams said he has emphasized the importance of rebounding to Hairston, Reggie Bullock and the Tar Heels’ other guards. One play especially frustrated Williams early Saturday.
“One time James Michael (McAdoo) shot the ball from the baseline and we had nobody go to the board,” Williams said. “And I said guys, you small guys that like this small lineup, I cannot do that if we don’t have you guys getting to the board when James Michael shoots. We can’t tell him not to shoot. He can’t be our only rebounder.”
UNC outscored Virginia 13-2 in points off offensive rebounds.
Bullock plays through illness: UNC’s junior guard played through a flu-like illness Saturday and finished with 11 points, three rebounds, four assists and a season-high four steals. He played 36 minutes.
Bullock also guarded Virginia guard Joe Harris, who led the Cavaliers with 27 points.
“I love the way he competed,” Williams said of Bullock. “Guarding Joe Harris is not easy. He can really play – he can really shoot the ball.”
Williams said Bullock “felt terrible” on Thursday and Friday, though Bullock, who also played through back pain and knee pain, downplayed his illness.
“I wasn’t going to take this game off because I knew that my teammates needed me, so I just tried to go out there and give my best effort,” he said.
Etc.: Virginia shot 58.5 percent from the field, but UNC dominated in both points off turnovers and points off offensive rebounds. In those two categories, the Tar Heels outscored the Cavaliers 29-8. … Just 19 of UNC’s 59 field goal attempts came in the paint. Virginia outscored UNC 30-20 in the paint. … UNC senior guard Dexter Strickland, who finished with 12 points, has scored in double-digits in back-to-back ACC games for the first time this season. … Virginia’s 58.5 shooting percentage was the best for any opponent in a UNC victory under Williams.