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Off the cuff: You didn't think it was going to be easy to beat Virginia did you? Carolina played tough defensively and shot well offensively and were up 51-38 with just more than eight minutes left.

Malcolm Brogdon was unstoppable at that point. I would say that the Tar Heels should have fouled him when he started those drives to the hoop but he would have just hit two free throws or either stepped back to hit a three if he was cut off.

He drove on the man to man and hit over the zone. Virginia scored on eight straight possessions late and the Tar Heels still pulled it out.

While Carolina turned the ball over 16 times, including five from JP Tokoto, the Tar Heels deserved to win that game. The Tar Heels looked every bit as good defensively as the highly regarded Virginia defense.

Carolina started out aggressively on defense as it took the Cavs more than five minutes to score their first bucket. And the Tar Heels never trailed.

On offense, Carolina hit seven of 14 three pointers and shot 54.8 percent from the floor, better than any other team against the Cavs this season.

Yes, the Tar Heels deserved to win this one. Is it possible that, after all the inconsistencies this season, they could win the ACC Title? Stay tuned.

Tar Heels 71, Virginia 67
Tar Heels shoot down top seed UVA

North Carolina shot the ball better than any team has against the defensive juggernaut Virginia and the Tar Heels got by the top-seeded Cavs 71-67 in the semi-finals of the ACC Tournament. (3/13)

The Tar Heels, behind freshman Justin Jackson's season-high 22 points, shot nearly 55 percent against the Cavaliers. Jackson went eight of 10, including four of five from beyond the three-point line.

But it took a play by junior Marcus Paige to put the Cavaliers away. After Virginia had cut a 13-point Carolina lead to just one with less than a minute to go, the Tar Heels were having trouble finding a good shot so UNC coach Roy Williams called a time out with 47 seconds left and only six left on the shot clock.

Paige worked his way into the lane, faked a defender and floated one in to give the Heels a three-point cushion at 65-62.

While Coach Williams said Jackson was great, "That was the play of the game," he said.

The Tar Heels, who had hit only 12 of 21 free throws to that point, wrapped up the game by sinking six straight free throws.

Carolina led by as many as 10 points in the first half and settled for a 30-23 advantage at the half. In the second half, Carolina went on an 8-0 run early, highlighted by a Jackson three right in front of the UNC bench, that put the Heels up by 13 at 40-27.

Virginia managed to get it down to seven before Carolina went on an 8-2 run, which ended on Jackson runner in the lane that put the Heels up 51-38 with 8:25 left.

But first-team All-ACC player Malcolm Brogdon took over the game at that point and almost single-handedly beat the Tar Heels.

In less than a minute, Brogdon scored on an old-fashioned three-point play and then hit a three-point shot to cut the lead to seven wth 7:28 to play.

The Tar Heels were hanging on to an eight-point lead with five minutes to go at 58-50 when Brogdon went on another, bigger spurt. He scored 12 points in a row over the next four minutes to draw the Cavs to within a point at 63-62 with 1:17 to play.

That's when Paige hit the shot in the lane at the end of the shot clock and Brice Johnson, Jackson and Paige sank six consecutive free throws to end it. Paige ended with 14 points while Johnson had 13.

"We made some big plays down the stretch," Coach Williams said.

He said defensively the Tar Heels played one of its best games. "While we made some mistakes, we were more active, more aggressive in pressuring," he said.

The Tar Heels, now 24-10, play at 8:30 p.m. Saturday for the ACC title. The 29-3 Cavaliers, who may get a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, were led by Brodgon's 25 points.


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