Off-tar­get Cava­liers get pounded by Tar Heels

The Washington Post Sunday - - SPORTS - BY AVA WAL­LACE

chapel hill, n.c. — Vir­ginia’s play­ers emerged from their locker room Satur­day night with a glassy-eyed look of res­ig­na­tion that has be­come in­creas­ingly fa­mil­iar the past few weeks.

The wrong kind of mile­stones have been pil­ing up for the No. 14 Cava­liers re­cently, with a new hand­ful ac­com­pa­ny­ing Satur­day’s 65-41 loss to No. 10 North Carolina. It was Vir­ginia’s worst loss since a 35-point rout at the hands of Ten­nessee in 2013. It ex­tended the Cava­liers’ los­ing streak to three — their long­est since 2011 — and was their fifth loss in seven games. It also marked the fewest points al­lowed by a Roy Wil­liams-coached team at North Carolina. In fact, Vir­ginia’s point to­tal is the low­est posted by an ACC team this sea­son.

Play­ers im­me­di­ately seemed to com­part­men­tal­ize the pain, quickly re­fer­ring to it sim­ply as

“one of those games.”

“I don’t think since I’ve been here I’ve been on the end of a game like this,” Vir­ginia ju­nior for­ward Isa­iah Wilkins said.

“I’ve been on both sides of those games,” Cava­liers Coach Tony Ben­nett said, “and we’ll learn from it and step up. There’s a rea­son they’re 11-3 [in the ACC]. It was jump­ing early. This was the most alive I’ve felt this place or seen this place since I’ve been here. We an­swered the first few min­utes, but they sep­a­rated quick. Like I said, it was tough.”

The Cava­liers’ im­plo­sion in a packed Dean E. Smith Cen­ter — for­mer Tar Heels Brice John­son and Mar­cus Paige were at the game to have their jer­seys re­tired in a half­time cer­e­mony — started with their own shoot­ing.

Vir­ginia (18-8, 8-6 ACC) shot 27.8 per­cent from the field and made just 2 of 20 three-pointers de­spite en­ter­ing the night with the sec­ond-best field goal per­cent­age and three-point field goal per­cent­age in the ACC. Ju­nior guard Mar­ial Shayok led Vir­ginia with 13 points, and se­nior point guard Lon­don Per­rantes had 12 points on 3-for-10 shoot­ing.

“I have the ut­most re­spect for Tony Ben­nett and his club,” Wil­liams said after­ward, “and I have never seen his team miss that many shots.”

North Carolina (23-5, 11-3) flexed its mus­cle, with ju­nior Justin Jack­son lead­ing the way with 20 points — 18 of which came in the first half — in­clud­ing four three-pointers. The Tar Heels got 13 points from Kennedy Meeks and 10 from Isa­iah Hicks.

The game was a far cry from the last time John­son and Paige were on court against Vir­ginia, when the Tar Heels out­lasted the Cava­liers, 61-57, in the ACC ti­tle game last March.

Wil­liams put in his sub­sti­tutes with two min­utes to play. Ben­nett looked on, frozen on the side­lines with his hands on his hips.

Down 12 points at in­ter­mis­sion — by far Vir­ginia’s big­gest half­time deficit of the sea­son — the Cava­liers were sapped of en­ergy by the sec­ond half. They scored five points in the first four min­utes be­fore en­ter­ing an­other ex­tended scor­ing drought while the Tar Heels built upon their first-half mar­gin.

Per­rantes never found his shoot­ing touch. A par­tic­u­larly way­ward three-point at­tempt prompted an ex­ag­ger­ated head roll in frus­tra­tion from Ben­nett and ended in an em­phatic dunk from Hicks on the other end to push the Tar Heels’ lead to 17 with 13:25 to play.

The first half hadn’t been much bet­ter for Vir­ginia. The Cava­liers dou­bled the post as much as they could to start, throw­ing the Tar Heels’ big men off and hold­ing North Carolina to 3-for-10 shoot­ing from the field as Vir­ginia led 8-6 with more than 12 min­utes left in the half. It was the Cava­liers’ last lead of the game. The Tar Heels missed just seven field goals for the rest of the half, while Vir­ginia shot just 8 for 24 from the field be­fore half­time.

Ben­nett, with the re­straint and poise he re­serves for par­tic­u­larly bad losses, tried to put the game in per­spec­tive.

“You got a choice when you get smacked in the face like that,” he said. “You can ei­ther lay down or get back up and try to fight.”

GRANT HALVERSON/GETTY IM­AGES

Lon­don Per­rantes fin­ished with 12 points on 3-for-10 shoot­ing.

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