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Off the cuff: If Raycom isn't embarrassed, they should be. The Duke-Miami game ended at 3:56. Yet somehow the telecaster of the game missed three and a half minutes of the Carolina-Virginia game that didn't start until after 4 p.m. Announcer Tim Brandt, after a slew of commercials, said, as Raycom started showing the action, "Because of the overtime, we pick it up early in the ballgame. Just under way, it's 5-4 Carolina with 16:45 to play in the first half." It's not like the camera operators or announcers had to run over from Duke.

I called Raycom but somehow they were closed so I will try to get an answer as to why that happened. Again, the Duke game ended at 3:56. They went to a commercial and came back to wrap it up at 3:58. The Carolina-Virginia preview started right at 4 p.m. Shortly thereafter, they went to commercials - showing us ads from RBC Bank, Hardees, Toyota Tundra and Great Clips while the game was going on. While I'll give them an opportunity for an excuse, there really is no excuse for it. The viewer should be the one kept in mind first and foremost. If the game is being played, it should be on the air.

(UPDATE - Turns out Raycom is embarrassed. I spoke with Colin Smith, a VP with Raycom, and the 1994 UNC grad said in hindsight they would have done it differently.

What happened was Carolina was the second half of a Raycom double header. The Duke-Miami overtime game ended at 3:56. Yet Raycom missed three and a half minutes of the Carolina-Virginia game that didn't start until after 4 p.m. There were commercial breaks after the Duke game, after the brief Duke game wrap-up, after the Carolina game intro and after a brief Carolina "pre-game" keys to the game segment.

Raycom was working quickly on the fly, trying not to complicate things for network affiliates by staying on their break schedule. They first tried to get Carolina to delay the start of the game but UNC officials refused, Smith said. He said it would have been better if Raycom had skipped the second Carolina game break and made it up later. Instead, we all missed the beginning of the game - unnecessarily. Plus, there were two commercials by a couple of sponsors from the time the Duke game ended and when they picked up the Carolina game. Smith acknowledged that advertisers don't like their commercials placed so closely together.

So, it was a botch. Raycom doesn't get a lot of practice with such situations as the first game of double headers don't normally run that long (in addition to the overtime, there was a scoreboard power delay during the Duke game). He said it might happen once every three or four years. As it so happens though, a nearly identical problem occurred the next day as the first game - Virginia Tech vs. N.C. State - ran long but Raycom had learned their lesson and dumped the second break before the second game started.)

Some people got all bent out of shape because Carolina, on its way to more than 100 points themselves, couldn't stop Maryland from scoring. In this game against Virginia, the Heels played good defense and had trouble scoring early on. It just goes to show that each game is different and you play to your opposition. The good thing is that Carolina has shown that it can win whatever the circumstances. Of course the Heels also know they can be beaten too.

The game at Duke Wednesday night should be another classic as the two teams are tied at 7-2 in the league. Can Carolina's inside game dominate Duke and can Ty Lawson dictate the tempo? I think the answers are yes but Duke-Carolina games are hard to predict.

I have heard from reliable sources that Will Graves' suspension had nothing to do with playing time. Let's just say that the total number of minutes Graves has played in his two years as a Tar Heel is 420.

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Heels 76, Cavaliers 61
Defense, long-range shots help UNC

North Carolina used stingy defense to get out front in a low-scoring game and then came alive with three-point shots in the second half to easily handle Virginia 76-61. (2/7)

The Tar Heels led by 24 at 74-50 before the second and third teams were outscored 11-2 over the last few minutes to make the game look closer than it really was.

It looked as if it would be a close game as the Heels led just 24-23 with less than four minutes left in the first half. But the Heels did the same thing they did against Maryland - finished the first half on a run and started the second half with a bang.

A 9-2 run over the last 3:48 of the first half, highlighted by a Wayne Ellington three pointer, gave Carolina a 33-25 halftime lead. Then, UNC scored the first seven points of the second half - including another Ellington three and an Ellington alley-oop pass to Danny Green - to go up by 15 at 40-25.

The margin got no closer than 11 and got up as high as 24 as three Tar Heels - Ellington, Green and Ty Lawson - combined for six three-point baskets. Carolina ended the game with a total of nine three pointers.

However, the baskets weren't falling in the first half but UNC coach Roy Williams said he felt really good about the team's defense, which kept the Heels ahead. Carolina's aggressive defense kept the Cavaliers from getting easy baskets in the first half as everything was contested.

"But it was an unusual first half," Williams said. "We couldn't make anything on the offensive end."

Carolina shot only 33 percent in the first half but raised the final game percentage to 42 as the Heels managed to hit half their shots in the second half.

Other than the long-range shots, offensive highlights of the second half included a nifty Lawson pass to Green for a lay-in that gave the Heels their biggest lead at the time at 60-40 and an athletic play by Ellington where he drove the lane, hopped and underhanded a five-footer that put UNC up 71-48.

Ellington led the Heels in scoring with 20 while Green, who felt sickly going into the game, had 17. Tyler Hansbrough, who had 13 rebounds, scored 15 points while Lawson, who had nine assists and no turnovers, finished with 10.

Carolina, which travels to Duke Wednesday with first place on the line, improves to 21-2 overall and 7-2 in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Meanwhile Virginia, which was led by Jeff Jones' 19 points, falls to 7-12 and 1-7 in the league.

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