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January 31, 2010

Heels' offense vanishes in home loss to Virginia

CHAPEL HILL - North Carolina coach Roy Williams stepped into his post-game press conference and immediately started heaping blame upon himself.

"I've just got to do a better job," Williams said. "I feel like a stuck record, but that's what I've got to do."

Inside the Tar Heels' locker room, the players were busy trying to point the blame back in their direction.

"It's all us," sophomore forward Ed Davis said. "It's got nothing to do with Coach Williams."

Whoever's fault it was, the bottom line was that Carolina was unable to take advantage of any sort of boost it got from beating rival N.C. State in its last game and lost 75-60 to Virginia.

It was UVa.'s biggest win ever in Chapel Hill.

The Cavaliers (13-6, 4-2 in the ACC) blew the game open in the second half while Carolina (13-8, 2-4) resorted to its calamity-filled ways on offense.

The Heels flirted with a comeback in the final minutes, getting as close as 14 points on a Larry Drew II 3-pointer, but that bid all but ended when Sammy Zeglinski hit a three that put Virginia back up 18 points with 3 minutes to go.

Zeglinski, who finished wit 19 points, struck again with a little more than a minute to go, pushing the Cavs' lead to 17 with a shot-clock-beating 3-pointer.

Drew and Will Graves led Carolina with 15 points apiece, but Graves scored just a single point in the second half, and 12 of Drew's points came after the Heels were already down by 20 points.

Starting post players Davis and Deon Thompson combined for just 11 points and 11 rebounds and a grand total of three made field goals.

Carolina shot 35.7 percent and turned the ball over 17 times while picking up just 11 assists.

"I can't put my finger on it," Drew said. "We try. We play with effort. There's just something extra. We had it against State. We've got to find it again."

The Smith Center was about two-thirds full despite inches of snow on the ground outside.

Five minutes into the game, the public-address announcer invited fans to move down to available seats in the lower level.

But unlike the famed 2000 game here against Maryland when a rowdy, student-filled lower bowl helped propel the Tar Heels to victory, the fans who moved downstairs for this game just ended up leaving early with the Tar Heels trailing by double figures.

Signs that Carolina's offense would struggle again were apparent early in the game.

Virginia's Sylven Landesberg scored 16 of his 29 points in the first half on 8-for-11 shooting, and the only thing that kept Carolina close was getting 14 points from Graves behind his four 3-pointers.

The rest of the Tar Heels combined to shoot just 5 for 20 in the first half while the Cavaliers shot better than 53 percent.

Carolina trailed by just five at halftime but in the second half allowed the Cavaliers to go on a run the way so many other UNC opponents have this year.

Davis started the second half with a dunk that pulled Carolina within three points, but the Tar Heels would not score another field goal until nearly eight minutes later.

In the meantime, Virginia rattled off 18 points in a row in a four-minute span to go up 53-32 less than six minutes into the second half.

"We just didn't do anything at all," Davis said. "We did everything we possibly could do to hurt the team during that stretch."

The question afterward was why.

Coming off the win against N.C. State, players talked about gaining momentum and using that win as a means to picking up more victories.

Instead, the Tar Heels found themselves fielding questions about not making the NCAA Tournament.

And asking what was wrong with the Tar Heels yielded a simple, truthful answer.

"Everything," senior Marcus Ginyard said. "There's nothing really working right now."


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