CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) A poor shooting game didn’t prevent Roger Mason Jr. from pulling No. 7 Virginia out of its ACC slump.
Mason scored 18 points, and the leading free-throw shooter in the ACC sank four straight from the line in the final 41.1 seconds to seal a 71-67 victory over North Carolina yesterday.
Mason was 4-for-13 from the field and had missed seven of eight 3-pointers before his game-winning free throws.
“I looked at it as another opportunity,” said Mason, a 91 percent free throw shooter who made nine of 10 against the Tar Heels and is 57-for-63 for the season. “I didn’t shoot 3s as well as I would have liked to, but I had a chance to go to the free throw line and help my team win. That’s all I was thinking.”
Coach Pete Gillen believed his team was in good shape when Mason was fouled twice in the closing seconds.
“I’ve seen great free throw shooters miss it. There are no guarantees. Nobody is a machine,” Gillen said. “But you feel pretty good with him at the line. We wanted to get the ball to him at the end of the game.”
North Carolina coach Matt Doherty said it was a mental lapse by freshman Jackie Manuel to foul one of the nation’s best from the line twice.
“I am trying to be delicate, but we weren’t supposed to foul him,” Doherty said. “We’ve got to be held accountable for our mistakes, and that certainly was a mental error.”
The Tar Heels (5-8, 1-3) matched the school record for home losses in a season at five and fell to the Cavaliers for just the second time in 17 games at Dean Smith Center.
“The challenge now is with the emotional investment we made because we didn’t get rewarded,” Doherty said. “Do we have the intestinal fortitude, the toughness to come back with the same kind of energy and bring it next week?”
The Cavaliers (10-2, 1-2) were expected to battle No. 2 Duke and No. 4 Maryland for the ACC title with a veteran team but lost at home to N.C. State last Saturday and then fell at Clemson by 16 at midweek to fall into an early hole in the league after a weak non-conference slate.
“All teams have their ups and downs, but the way to show character is what you do to bounce back,” said Virginia center Travis Watson. “We just wanted to get that one win on the board. A big egg sitting on the other side doesn’t look good. Now we know what we have to do. We’re not the 0-2 team that we were.”
Virginia was on the ropes again against a North Carolina team that gave up a school-record 112 points Wednesday night at Maryland. The Cavaliers had trouble solving North Carolina’s zone and couldn’t manufacture much offense from their press.
They trailed by eight with 14:22 left, but minutes later the Tar Heels turned it over on four straight possessions. Mason scored on a fastbreak layup and 3-pointer to tie it and set the stage for a close final 12 minutes.
Mason’s bank shot with 3:09 left broke a 63-63 tie, and Chris Williams’ bank shot as the shot clock ran out on Virginia’s next possession helped give the Cavaliers some breathing room before Mason closed the door on the Tar Heels.
Williams, held scoreless for the first time in 100 career games against Clemson, added 15 points for the Cavaliers, who won for just the fifth time in 62 games in Chapel Hill. The win may have been costly for Virginia, who lost Adam Hall late with a right foot injury. He was on crutches after the game.
Kris Lang led the Tar Heels with 18 points, while Jason Capel added 14 and Jawad Williams 13.
Virginia built its lead to as many as six early in the second half before the Tar Heels went on a 15-1 run, keyed by three 3-pointers by Brian Morrison in a span of 2:05 as North Carolina went up by eight before losing yet another home game.
Jawad Williams sank two 3-pointers and scored eight points in a span of 1:18 as North Carolina grabbed the biggest lead of the first half at 19-13.
The spurt forced Virginia to call its second timeout in the opening 10 minutes as Doherty raced onto the court to greet Williams and the rest of his team with high-fives and shouts of encouragement.