After the break, however, Villanova bigs JayVaughn Pinkston (20 points, 8 rebounds) and Mouphtaou Yarou (17 points, 8 rebounds) utilized their strength to own the boards.
"They were real tough," UNC 4-man P.J. Hairston said. "Those two bigs – Pinkston and Yarou – those are two strong men."
Villanova outrebounded UNC 23-16 in the second half and pulled down 13 offensive rebounds that resulted in 17 second-chance points.
"I didn't know it was that much," James Michael McAdoo said upon hearing Villanova's offensive rebound total. "It didn't seem like that much."
How dominant were the Wildcats in the post? Consider this – other than a dead ball rebound credited to UNC, third-string point guard Luke Davis grabbed the only other Tar Heel rebound in the opening eight minutes of the second half.
The Wildcats consistently fed the post to retake the lead at 44-42 after falling behind by 20 in the first half. That effort prompted Williams to pull all five starters to not only refocus their concentration, but also to change up defensive assignments.
"Any time [Pinkston] made a move, we just wanted to double team down low so he couldn't get an easy shot and make him do something else." Hairston said.
While UNC's small lineup had forced Maryland and Miami to match its four-guard lineup last weekend in the ACC Tournament, Villanova's effectiveness inside led Roy Williams to inserting an extra big.
"We had some difficult moments out there," Williams said during his postgame press conference. "The small lineup's gotten all the attention, [but] I thought it was hurting us, so we went with two big guys. At the same time we needed to score, so we kept P.J. and Reggie [Bullock] in, our best three point shooters. We were fortunate it worked out."
The Tar Heels regained their perimeter shooting form midway through the second half and were able to trade threes for twos to secure the victory. Villanova finished with a 38-18 edge in points in the paint and a 17-6 advantage in second-chance points.
While Williams criticized his team's lackluster effort in being outrebounded by 14 in the second half at Clemson several weeks ago, Friday's result didn't appear to be the result of poor hustle. Rather, the Wildcats capitalized on their size advantage and there was little UNC could do about it.
"They just got a lot of balls that we should have gotten," McAdoo said. "We feel like we didn't let them necessarily dominate us on the boards. We were able to get a lot of 50-50 balls. Guys were on the floor competing and we knew we had to do that, if we wanted to be able to stay in this game."
The challenge may be even tougher on Sunday against No. 1 Kansas. The Jayhawks rank 15th nationally in rebound margin (plus-6.6).