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Saturday, February 25, 2012
Rapid Reaction: UNC 54, Virginia 51

By Robbi Pickeral


CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — A quick look at seventh-ranked North Carolina’s 54-51 win against Virginia at John Paul Jones Arena on Saturday:

What it means: That the Tar Heels survived to win their sixth straight road game since their 33-point loss at Florida State — and remain tied for first place in the ACC standings. Virginia has now dropped three of its last five games.

How it happened: UNC looked pretty comfy early, leading 18-10 (on 12 points from senior Tyler Zeller) — especially when Cavaliers star forward Mike Scott picked up his second foul with 8:46 left in the first half. But perhaps the Tar Heels got too comfy.

With Scott watching from the bench, the Cavs picked up their defensive intensity, allowing the Tar Heels only two more field goals the rest of the half. Virginia went on a 20-8 run before the break, taking the lead on a Sammy Zeglinski 3-pointer, then a 30-26 advantage into halftime when Zeglinski beat the buzzer from about three steps beyond the 3-point arc.

UNC finally took back the lead with 11:08 left during an 11-4 run during which Scott picked up his fourth foul (see below) and reserve P.J. Hairston scored five straight points.

A Jontel Evans steal and transition bucket cut Virginia’s deficit to 52-51 with about three minutes left. But after each team missed 3s, a Zeller dunk gave the Tar Heels a 54-51 cushion with 13.3 seconds left.

Zeller led the Tar Heels with 20 points and forward John Henson added 15. Evans finished with 13 points for the Cavaliers, and Scott added six.

Hubbub: With 12 minutes left — just after he drew a fourth foul from Virginia’s Akil Mitchell — UNC’s Henson made one of the most memorable plays of the game when he drew a fourth foul from Scott. And by “drew,” I mean sold a lot more contact than was there (if there was any at all). Officials even went to the monitors to see if an elbow had snapped Henson’s upper-body back so suddenly. UNC led by four at the time, and with the crowd in an uproar, scored five straight points to take back the lead. After the game, Henson said he was hit in the throat by Scott on Scott's fourth foul, but that he might have given a little extra ooph so the refs would notice.

What’s next: Seniors Zeller and Justin Watts will play their final game at the Smith Center when UNC hosts Maryland in its regular-season home finale on Wednesday night. Virginia will host Florida State on Thursday.