Manek ignites onslaught as Carolina steamrolls Virginia

By R.L. Bynum

NEW YORK — For much of the night, it looked like Carolina’s Brady Manek would single-handedly beat Virginia. He nearly did for one half.

With his teammates also playing well, it was an easy evening for the Tar Heels, who steamrolled the Cavaliers 63–43 in the last ACC Tournament quarterfinal Thursday night at the Barclays Center.

There may be some observers who were surprised that UNC (24–8) won so easily. Leaky Black isn’t in that group. “Surprised? No,” he said. “I’m pretty confident in our guys. I feel like we should do this more often.”

Carolina, winner of six consecutive games and 12 of its last 14, faces No. 7 seed Virginia Tech (20–12) in the second Friday semifinal at 9:30. 

The Hokies, who ousted No. 4-seed Notre Dame 87–80 and will be playing for the third consecutive day, lost both regular-season meetings, 78–68 in Chapel Hill on Jan. 24 and 65–57 on Feb. 19 at Virginia Tech (see box scores below story).

“We’ve got two more games we need to play hard and we need to win,” said Manek, who scored a game-high 21 points. “Coming into that game, we knew we’d come out punching first, play harder, play tougher, that was going to be the result.”

Manek had plenty of help as Armando Bacot put up his school-record 24th double-double of the season with 10 points and 11 rebounds. Caleb Love collected 10 points and five assists and RJ Davis had eight points and six assists.

“I was making shots but they were finding me on back cuts, picking and popping, just getting to an open spot,” Manek said. “Caleb, RJ, Leaky, even Armando hit me with a back-door pass and just everybody playing well, playing together, playing tough.”

Manek outscored Virginia in the first half 19–13, and it took the Cavaliers 5½ minutes into the second half to finally have more points than Manek (20–19) again. He took the edge in that battle on a dunk with 3:18 left in the first half. 

UNC’s Brady Manek (45) fires in one of his three first-half 3-pointers, this one over Virginia’s Jayden Gardner.

That was the first time a Tar Heel has outscored an opponent in a half since Reggie Bullock did it (21–20) in the first half against Maryland in 2013.

Virginia’s 13 points were the fewest in a first half by a Carolina opponent since East Tennessee State had 12 on Dec. 9, 2012. It was the fewest points by any team in a first half of an ACC Tournament game in the shot-clock era.

The 43 points were the fewest by Virginia all season, the fewest by a UNC opponent (previous lowest was 47 by Boston College in Chapel Hill) this season and the fewest in an ACC Tournament game by a UNC opponent since Georgia Tech scored 39 in a 1982 ACC quarterfinal.

Virginia’s offense was out of sorts all night with Black, who had six points, three assists and three steals, pestering and frustrating veteran point guard Kihei Clark and the Cavaliers shooting poorly. Clark discovered, along with many other opponents, that when you are targeted by Black’s defense, you’re in for a tough night.

“It just felt like every shot that they took, we were in a position to contest it,” UNC coach Hubert Davis said. “I really liked the job that Leaky did on Clark. One of the big differences from the first time that we played Virginia, I felt like from an offensive standpoint, they were featuring Clark a lot more, especially in late-clock situations. We wanted our best defensive player on Clark, and we felt like [Black’s] size and his athleticism would bother him. But it just wasn’t Leaky’s defense. I feel like everybody else was locked in defensively.”

Virginia shot 34.6% from the floor, 26.3% from 3-point range and turned the ball over 11 times. Clark was limited to seven points, four assists and turned the ball over three times.

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“I feel like our physicality from the beginning and our intensity just really took them out of their flow,” Black said. “They’re just like a rhythm team, just the offense they run, so I feel like just our physicality with them really made them struggle.

“He’s been there four years. He’s the one that gets them into their offense,” said Black, who kept that from happening.

Manek set the tone early with a rebound that was all about desire and determination for a follow shot for the game’s first points. RJ Davis’ follow shot among a bunch of taller players capped a 16–4 run that gave UNC a 26–13 lead with 5:27 left.

“It was very important for us to get off to a good start,” said Coach Davis, whose team had never practiced or shot on the court until pregame warmups.

Yes, that was the author of this story shown on the ESPN broadcast wearing a Cubs cap. (FROM SCREENSHOT)

“I wasn’t worried, but I was thinking we would be a little hesitant out there on the floor trying to find a rhythm,” he said. “On the offensive end, I think it took us a while to get into the rhythm with the exception of Brady. But, defensively, that’s what got us the lead. I thought where we got our confidence and our strength was us continuing to get defensive stops. Even though from an offensive standpoint it took us a while to get in a rhythm, I felt like our defense was so good that it allowed us to be successful.”

Even with the prospect of playing three games in as many days, Hubert Davis didn’t play any reserves other than Justin McKoy and Puff Johnson until D’Marco Dunn entered the game with 7:17 left. A first-half McKoy jumper gave him his first points since Jan. 24 against Virginia Tech.

With Kadin Shedrick guarding Bacot and Jayden Gardner quickly doubling him, the Cavaliers made it hard for Bacot to operate inside early but that didn’t last. Gardner scored 17 points and was the only Virginia player to score in double figures.

The Tar Heels have made the semifinals in all three events staged in Brooklyn. UNC is 48–13 all-time in quarterfinal games and has won at least one game in the tournament for eight consecutive seasons.

No. 25 UNC 63, Virginia 43

Box from first UNC-VT game

Box from second UNC-VT game

ACC Tournament bracket

ACC Tournament schedule

Barclays Center
Brooklyn
Tuesday’s first round
No. 12 Boston College 66, No. 13 Pittsburgh 46
No. 10 Clemson 70, No. 15 N.C. State 64
No. 11 Louisville 84, No. 14 Georgia Tech 74
Wednesday’s second round
No. 9 Syracuse 96, No. 8 Florida State 57
No. 12 Boston College 82, No. 5 Wake Forest 77, OT
No. 7 Virginia Tech 76, No. 10 Clemson 75, OT
No. 6 Virginia 51, No. 11 Louisville 50
Thursday’s quarterfinals
No. 1 Duke 88, No. 9 Syracuse 79
No. 4 Miami 71, No. 12 Boston College 69, OT
No. 7 Virginia Tech 87, No. 2 Notre Dame 80
No. 3 North Carolina 63, No. 6 Virginia 43
Friday’s semifinals
No. 1 Duke 80, No. 4 Miami 76
No. 7 Virginia Tech 72, No. 3 North Carolina 59
Saturday’s championship (ESPN)
No. 1 Duke (28–5) vs. Virginia Tech (21–12), 8:30 p.m.

DateScore, record/
time, day, TV
LocationOpponent
(current rank)
November (4–2)
583–55 exhibition winHomeElizabeth City State
983–67 win, 1–0HomeLoyola Maryland
1294–87 win, 2–0HomeBrown
1694–83 win, 3–0RoadCollege of Charleston
2093–84 loss, 3–1Uncasville, Conn.Y — No. 9 Purdue
2189–72 loss, 3–2Uncasville, Conn.Y — No. 9 Tennessee
2372–53 win, 4–2HomeUNC Asheville
December (5–1, 1–0 ACC)
172–51 win, 5–2HomeX — Michigan
579–62 win, 6–2, 1-0 ACCRoadGeorgia Tech
1180–63 win, 7–2 ACCHomeElon
1474–61 win, 8–2 ACCHomeFurman
1898–69 loss, 8–3 ACCLas VegasZ — No. 5 Kentucky
2170–50 win, 9–3 ACCHomeAppalachian State
January (6–3, 6–3 ACC)
291–65 win, 10–3, 2-0 ACCRoadBoston College
578–73 loss, 10–4, 2-1 ACCRoadNotre Dame
874–58 win, 11–4, 3–1 ACCHomeVirginia
1588–65 win, 12–4, 4–1 ACCHomeGeorgia Tech
1885–57 loss, 12–5, 4–2 ACCRoadMiami
2298–76 loss, 12–6, 4–3 ACCRoadWake Forest
2478–68 win, 13–6, 5–3 ACCHomeVirginia Tech
2658–47 win, 14–6, 6–3 ACCHomeBoston College
29100–80 win, 15–6, 7–3 ACCHomeN.C. State
February (7–2, 7–2 ACC)
190–82 OT win, 16–6, 8–3 ACCRoadLouisville
587–67 loss, 16–7, 8–4 ACCHomeNo. 7 Duke
879–77 win, 17–7, 9–4 ACCRoadClemson
1294–74 win, 18–7, 10–4 ACCHomeFlorida State
1676–67 loss, 18–8, 10–5 ACCHomePittsburgh
1965–57 win, 19–8, 11–5 ACCRoadVirginia Tech
2170–63 win, 20–8, 12–5 ACCHomeLouisville
2684–74 win, 21–8, 13–5 ACCRoadN.C. State
2888–79 OT win, 22–8, 14–5 ACCHomeSyracuse
March (2–0)
594–81 win, 23–8, 15–5 ACCRoadNo. 7 Duke
— ACC Tournament —
1063–43 win, 24–8BrooklynVirginia
11Friday, 9:30, ESPNBrooklynVirginia Tech
X — ACC/Big Ten Challenge; Y — Basketball Hall of Fame Tip-Off; Z — CBS Sports Classic

Photo via @UNC_Basketball

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