No. 4 Virginia bounced back from its loss to Duke in a big way, knocking off No. 8 North Carolina with a 69-61 road win Monday.
The Cavaliers (21-2) were led by 20 points from Kyle Guy as the team shut down a previously red-hot Tar Heels squad at the Dean E. Smith Center. DeAndre Hunter added 20 points while Ty Jerome finished with 15 points and 11 assists as Virginia ended the game on a 12-2 run.
This helped the squad remain in contention for an ACC regular-season title at 9-2 on the year.
North Carolina (19-5) entered the day on a seven-game winning streak but couldn't keep it going despite 17 points from Coby White.
Virginia Must Fix Offensive Sloppiness to Remain Title Contenders
Even one of the most efficient offenses in the country goes through cold stretches, but missed shots are excusable. Virginia has instead been held back lately by turnovers.
The Cavaliers gave the ball away 10 times against North Carolina, many of them simply coming from bad decisions on the court. They turned it over three times during a 10-0 second-half run that seemed to turn around the game.
This not only hurt the offense, which shot well throughout the night, but it also led to plenty of easy fast-break points for the Tar Heels.
Fortunately, the squad refocused down the stretch with zero turnovers in the final 12 minutes of the game.
For years, Virginia has had one of the toughest defenses to crack in the half court, and this year's team is just as good. However, allowing an opponent to get easy layups off turnovers ruins all the work you do on the defensive end.
With UNC also totaling 18 offensive rebounds, the home team finished with 20 more field-goal attempts in the game. This often represents the difference between winning and losing.
Virginia came into Monday averaging just 9.2 turnovers per game, which was tied for the best in the nation, per ESPN.com.
Unfortunately, the team is fading fast in this category thanks to some recent poor decision-making and sloppiness.
The Cavaliers had 14 turnovers against Duke, 14 against Miami and 16 against North Carolina State. This resulted in a loss and two wins that were much closer than they probably should have been.
"Those are the things that before you win, you have to eliminate losing, or be cleaner in those areas," head coach Tony Bennett said Sunday, per Mike Barber of the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
The squad struggled in this area for much of the night Monday but fixed the issue late and survived for the close win. There is still room to improve, however, or else Virginia could be headed to another short postseason run.
UNC's ACC Title Hopes Take Brutal Blow as Injuries Pile Up
This has not been a lucky stretch for North Carolina as far as injuries are concerned.
Already coming in short-handed, the team lost one of its key players when Nassir Little went down with an ankle injury about eight minutes into the game. Matt Norlander of CBS Sports noted the depth problems for UNC:
The team showed plenty of resiliency throughout the night, but then things got even worse when Cam Johnson also suffered an ankle injury in the second half.
Although the senior returned for the last few possessions, it was too late for North Carolina to recover.
UNC led 55-52, but Jerome tied the game with an open three-pointer after Johnson's injury with over six minutes remaining. The Heels only scored six more points the rest of the game while Virginia pulled away for an eight-point win.
The severity of the injuries to Johnson and Little are still to be determined, but playing without either could be challenging for this group.
North Carolina has played so well at times this season thanks to its impressive depth and ability to push the pace. It's a different story with a short bench.
Considering the team finished with only three bench points against Virginia on one three-pointer by Brandon Robinson, depth should be a significant concern going forward.
You don't want to put too much pressure on Coby White and Luke Maye, who combined to go 8-of-29 from the field Monday.
Both teams will get some much-needed rest before playing Saturday. Virginia will host Notre Dame while North Carolina will go on the road to face Wake Forest.