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.
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.
“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.
“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
time, day, TV
|5||83–55 exhibition win||Home||Elizabeth City State|
|9||83–67 win, 1–0||Home||Loyola Maryland|
|12||94–87 win, 2–0||Home||Brown|
|16||94–83 win, 3–0||Road||College of Charleston|
|20||93–84 loss, 3–1||Uncasville, Conn.||Y — No. 9 Purdue|
|21||89–72 loss, 3–2||Uncasville, Conn.||Y — No. 9 Tennessee|
|23||72–53 win, 4–2||Home||UNC Asheville|
|December (5–1, 1–0 ACC)|
|1||72–51 win, 5–2||Home||X — Michigan|
|5||79–62 win, 6–2, 1-0 ACC||Road||Georgia Tech|
|11||80–63 win, 7–2 ACC||Home||Elon|
|14||74–61 win, 8–2 ACC||Home||Furman|
|18||98–69 loss, 8–3 ACC||Las Vegas||Z — No. 5 Kentucky|
|21||70–50 win, 9–3 ACC||Home||Appalachian State|
|January (6–3, 6–3 ACC)|
|2||91–65 win, 10–3, 2-0 ACC||Road||Boston College|
|5||78–73 loss, 10–4, 2-1 ACC||Road||Notre Dame|
|8||74–58 win, 11–4, 3–1 ACC||Home||Virginia|
|15||88–65 win, 12–4, 4–1 ACC||Home||Georgia Tech|
|18||85–57 loss, 12–5, 4–2 ACC||Road||Miami|
|22||98–76 loss, 12–6, 4–3 ACC||Road||Wake Forest|
|24||78–68 win, 13–6, 5–3 ACC||Home||Virginia Tech|
|26||58–47 win, 14–6, 6–3 ACC||Home||Boston College|
|29||100–80 win, 15–6, 7–3 ACC||Home||N.C. State|
|February (7–2, 7–2 ACC)|
|1||90–82 OT win, 16–6, 8–3 ACC||Road||Louisville|
|5||87–67 loss, 16–7, 8–4 ACC||Home||No. 7 Duke|
|8||79–77 win, 17–7, 9–4 ACC||Road||Clemson|
|12||94–74 win, 18–7, 10–4 ACC||Home||Florida State|
|16||76–67 loss, 18–8, 10–5 ACC||Home||Pittsburgh|
|19||65–57 win, 19–8, 11–5 ACC||Road||Virginia Tech|
|21||70–63 win, 20–8, 12–5 ACC||Home||Louisville|
|26||84–74 win, 21–8, 13–5 ACC||Road||N.C. State|
|28||88–79 OT win, 22–8, 14–5 ACC||Home||Syracuse|
|5||94–81 win, 23–8, 15–5 ACC||Road||No. 7 Duke|
|— ACC Tournament —|
|10||63–43 win, 24–8||Brooklyn||Virginia|
|11||Friday, 9:30, ESPN||Brooklyn||Virginia Tech|