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January 21, 2014

Heels struggle at UVa, fall to 1-4

CHARLOTTESVILLE--- Marcus Paige rebounded Leslie McDonald's first missed three point shot 15 seconds into the game against Virginia Monday night in John Paul Jones Arena.

Joel James grabbed the ball after McDonald missed a second consecutive shot from behind the arc. Then, on McDonald's third touch, the senior worked the ball closer inside and made a layup for the Tar Heels' first two points.

North Carolina only got two more second-chance points over the course of the first half though, and the lack of put-back points reflects a consistent problem Roy Williams identifies amidst the team's fluctuating struggles this season.

"We've got to be more attentive to finish the play instead of worrying about getting fouled, i(t')s one of the things I say all the time," Williams said. "Tyler Hansbrough was one of the best I've ever seen at working old-fashioned three-point plays because when he got the ball, he finished the play then started to run back down the court and realized the referee'd blown the whistle and called a foul."

"So many times we're in there looking where the defensive player is, or not exploding up as much as we can and being a little hesitant with it."

The difference in Virginia's instinct and natural in-game aggression and UNC's was one of the biggest dividers in the Cavaliers' 76-61 win.

"I thought in the first half, (Virginia) kept getting the loose balls and when they got an offensive rebound, they finished the play," Williams said. "It's not just effort - our kids are trying - but it's got to be a greater sense of urgency and an alertness."

Virginia converted its five first-half offensive rebounds into nine points. While UNC out-rebounded the Cavaliers on its own glass and grabbed nine offensive rebounds, the efforts were less fruitful as the Tar Heels only scored four total second chance points in the first half.

"The easiest way to put it is the more efficient team won the game," Williams said. "They had a nice run in the first half and the start of the second half. We made a couple of turnovers, gave them some easy ones, we had some offensive rebounds in the first half and we didn't finish ours."

Captain James Michael McAdoo, who had 11 points, said that one of the biggest changes that the team needed to make to improve offensively was to take more time on shot selection and in reacting to rebounding.

"Today we were able to do that sometimes and get easy looks and layups," he said. "But other times, I rushed some shots, some other guys rushed some shots and that's just not good offense. That's something that we need to work on."

"It definitely just comes down to taking an extra second, even if it's being contested. Even if you can't finish, just kick it back out."

For freshman Kennedy Meeks, slowing down in the second half was exactly how he worked his way to leading the team in scoring.

He heeded coach Steve Robinson's advice on the Cavaliers' tendency to double up defense in the paint in order to better his team's offensive efficiency.

"Coach Rob(inson) told me, 'As soon as they double team, just dribble it out and just look for the open man,' and that's what I did," Meeks said. "Luckily (McAdoo) and Brice (Johnson) were there."

Meeks contributed 11 of his 15 points and five of his nine rebounds in the second half.

"I think I took my time in the second half to help my teammates out as far as rebounding and getting second chance points in the post," Meeks said. "I feel like we worked hard in the second half but just not as hard as we could, that resulted in the end of the game. I feel like we could've played a lot better."

Meeks, too, felt that aggression was the difference in the Tar Heels' effectivity over the course of the game.

"I think if we go up strong then either we're going to get fouled or we're going to get the bucket," he said. "I feel like on those plays (...) we didn't go as strong as we could've. We didn't go up with the idea of actually going hard and making the basket."

North Carolina did do a better job in the second half of converting on offensive rebounds, scoring 12 points off eight offensive boards, but in the end it was weakness in attack - not field goal shooting - that allowed Virginia to out-score UNC by 11 points through free throw shooting.

Those 11 points at the line, and difference in three- versus two-point field goals, were the difference in the game.

"That's not the officials, that's the other team being more aggressive," Williams said. "You need to finish the play instead of worry about being fouled and shying away from it, you've got to be strong about it and go to the basket."

"They play good position defense but 29 free throws (for Virginia) and 12 for us (...) I mean we had 26 (made) field goals (by) both teams."


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