- - Saturday, February 11, 2012

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — Though it was a one-possession game at halftime, Virginia’s top two point producers had already experienced problems that would soon cripple the Cavaliers.

Throw in a nearly 2-to-1 rebounding margin in the second half, and it’s no surprise that No. 5 North Carolina was able to give the No. 19 Cavs their worst loss of the season, a 70-52 blowout after it all fell apart.

Mike Scott came into the game ready to challenge Tyler Zeller for ACC big man dominance, but foul trouble struck early and often. Scott played just 27 minutes, scoring 18 points.

Guard Joe Harris, whose 3-point shooting usually complements Scott’s inside play, had his left hand stepped on.
He was scheduled to get X-rays Saturday evening in Charlottesville, Va., and said he had trouble squeezing his hand in the second half.

The rest of the lineup couldn’t lift U.Va. out of its funk.

“We got tired, and it affected us mentally with our execution,” coach Tony Bennett said. “It was alarming how many second or third shots they got on possessions.”

The Tar Heels’ size advantage was only exaggerated by foul trouble. Already enjoying an edge across the board, UNC did even better once the Wahoos were forced into a four-guard rotation.

‘Hoos big men Scott, Akil Mitchell and Darion Atkins all picked up two fouls in the first half, then another right out of the locker room.

“There’s nothing you can do when they’re calling touch fouls, and guys are running you over and putting it on the rim,” Mitchell said.

Harris added: “They let us be real physical out there, but then at times they would call a few ticky-tack calls, I guess, when you were trying to body up and stuff. It may have altered the play of our big guys a little bit.”

The final foul margin was 19-11 in favor of Virginia.

But the game also was lost in the paint, where a replay of the Cavs’ game against N.C. State occurred. In the second half, the Tar Heels (21-4, 8-2 ACC) outrebounded them by a 29-15 margin, pushing around their outmatched opponents.

It was a tough outcome for Virginia (19-5, 6-4), especially in a game that would have been provided a key résumé boost come tourney time.

“That’s not our style of play,” Mitchell said. “It’s not the way we want to play. We’re a little embarrassed after this loss. I’m sure I speak for all my teammates and coaches when I say I want to see them again.”

That happens in two weeks, but first a Tuesday night road test against a physical Clemson team.

What happens between now and then won’t be a surprise.

“I know we’ll be in practice rebounding,” guard Jontel Evans said. “We’ve got to rebound. If you’re going to beat teams of that stature, you’ve got to rebound.”

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