It’s been two years since Kyle Guy knew what it felt like to be in the midst of a losing streak. He’d prefer to avoid a reminder, but he and his Virginia teammates will have to try Monday night at North Carolina to elude a skid.
Less than 48 hours after the conclusion of Saturday night’s 81-71 loss at home to No. 2 Duke, U.Va. has the unenviable chore of having to play at North Carolina, which began Monday ranked No. 8 in the nation and is tied for first in the Atlantic Coast Conference with Duke. Dodging back-to-back losses for the first time since the 2016-17 season will be a tall order for U.Va. (20-2, 8-2) heading into Chapel Hill.
“I think we have experience with that kind of thing,” Guy said of the short preparation time for the Cavaliers, who came into Monday ranked No. 3 in the nation. “The quick turnaround is good for us to try to move on.”
U.Va., which lost four consecutive games in the ’16-17 season (including a 65-41 loss in its last trip to UNC), is coming off its most frustrating defensive effort in recent memory. Duke shot 58.7 percent from the floor — the best percentage against U.Va. since November 2010, when Washington shot 58 percent in the Huskies’ 106-63 win in Maui.
Duke made 13 of 21 shots from 3-point range. The only ACC player Saturday hotter from beyond the 3-point line than Duke’s RJ Barrett, who was 6 of 10 on 3s, was UNC freshman point guard Coby White.
Though UNC (19-4, 9-1) struggled at home to get past Miami 88-85 in overtime, White was unflappable from long range. He matched his career high with 33 points, featuring a 7-of-10 performance on 3-point attempts, to fuel UNC’s 13-of-26 shooting from long range.
While getting closer to resembling the sort of perimeter defense that entered the game against Duke surrendering just 24.7 percent shooting from 3-point range (best in the nation) will be critical against a UNC program that’s third in the ACC in 3-point shooting percentage (37.9), U.Va. also has other concerns to address.
U.Va. committed 14 turnovers against Duke, marking the third straight game in which the Cavaliers have turned the ball over at least that many times. Before the current three-game stretch, U.Va. had turned it over more than 13 times in a game only once this season (a season-high 16 in a win against Marshall).
Duke scored 17 fast-break points against U.Va., which couldn’t muster a single point in transition. That’s a particularly disturbing development given UNC’s penchant for running (fifth-fastest in the nation in terms of tempo, averaging 75.3 possessions per 40-minute game, according to statistician Ken Pomeroy).
“I think there’s some stuff that we’ll need to see that’ll be important in the Carolina game, and that’ll have to be fixed with the way they offensive-rebound and the way they can pressure and all those things,” said U.Va. coach Tony Bennett, whose team employs the slowest tempo in the nation (averaging 59.4 possessions per game).
Opposing philosophies present a something-must-give feel going into Monday night’s meeting. U.Va. paces the nation in scoring defense (54.1 points per game), while UNC is second-best in scoring offense (88.3 ppg) and leads the ACC in rebounding margin (plus-9.7), despite being shockingly outrebounded 39-26 by Miami (which is last in the ACC in rebounding margin).
Injuries may be taking a bit of a toll on U.Va. Guard Ty Jerome, who along with Guy led U.Va. in scoring with 16 points each against Duke, played against the Blue Devils despite having a sore back, but he indicated after the game the injury was bugging him.
U.Va. forward Mamadi Diakite collided face-to-face Saturday night with teammate De’Andre Hunter with 4:39 left in the first half, resulting in Diakite laying face-down and nearly motionless on the floor in front of Duke’s bench for about a minute before walking to the locker room. Diakite, who scored seven points before appearing to sustain a head injury, didn’t play again.
“They’ve got three guys on the perimeter that are as good as any three guys on the perimeter in the country,” UNC coach Roy Williams said. “They know their strengths, they play to their strengths, they stay away from their weaknesses and it’s a big time team.”
Norm Wood, 757-247-4642, email@example.com