The losing streak was in the back of the Tar Heels' minds, but they weren’t consumed with it.
“A couple of guys mentioned it,” said Jawad Williams, who scored a game-high 23 points. “I didn’t think about it all.”
The last time UNC left UVa victorious, Ademola Okulaja nailed a buzzer-beating three-pointer for a one-point triumph back on Feb. 20, 1999.
“Coach [Roy Williams] made an emphasis on it before the game that we’ve lost here five games straight, but it has nothing to do with this team here today,” added David Noel. “We just took that and we rolled with it.”
The only things that rolled out faster than the Cavaliers’ fans leaving the arena were UNC’s season statistical superlatives.
In nearly a century of basketball competition between the two ACC charter schools, the Tar Heels’ 110 points were the most ever scored against Virginia and the 34-point margin of victory was their biggest ever in Charlottesville.
“We played pretty doggone well,” said UNC’s sometimes hard to please second-year head coach.
Not even the threat of snow and ice outside could cool down hot shooting Carolina. The Tar Heels converted 39-of-65 of their shots for 60 percent – second only this season to 64 percent shooting at Virginia Tech. They also shot a season-high 61 percent from beyond the arc, making 14-of-23 threes.
“[Jawad Williams] has been on a hot streak all year, and we need that from him,” said Sean May, who added 20 points and nine rebounds. “He sure stepped up, the shots were going down for him and we just kept looking for him.”
Marvin Williams registered the first “double-double” of his UNC career with 15 points and 10 rebounds.
And with eight assists to go with his 16 points, Raymond Felton increased his conference best total on the season to 130 (6.8 per game).
It was the 13th straight game in which at least four Tar Heels scored in double figures, and their sixth time this season eclipsing the century mark (first in a true road game).
“It wasn’t necessarily easy, we just ran our offense and it worked 100 percent," Felton said. "We didn’t turn the ball over, we got great shots, everybody was unselfish…we got great shots every time and we knocked them down."
Defensively, UNC held Virginia to 39 percent shooting – 25 percent in the first half.
With the win, the Tar Heels (17-2, 6-1 ACC) grab sole possession of first place in the conference, if only temporarily, with a half-game lead over Duke which hosts Virginia Tech on Sunday. Meanwhile the Cavaliers (10-7, 1-7), which earlier this season routed then-10th ranked Arizona by 18 points, moved into the league cellar after now dropping seven of their last nine contests.
“North Carolina has a great team and they had a great day today,” UVa coach Pete Gillen said. “This is one game. It was a terrible game and we played poorly, but we have to play with courage. We are half way through the conference play and we're 1-7 and we still have nine games to play and hopefully we will do better. I think we will.”
Exercising much more restraint than his reputation, Gillen didn’t call his first timeout until the 12:46 mark of the first half, although one minute later he would have had the benefit of an official timeout. But it was well overdue. The Tar Heels, which converted three of its first four three-point attempts, led 23-8 at that point.
Just like at Virginia Tech and at Wake Forest, Rashad McCants picked up two quick fouls and was ineffective scoring from that point on. However it was hardly essential to the game’s outcome. Less than five minutes later he returned and quickly UNC led 35-10. But McCants would return to the sideline when he picked up his third with 4:32 left before intermission.
“It’s very exciting if you think about it that in any given game, any of our guys can come out and play well,” said McCants, who was held to five points, his lowest scoring outing since scoring three points against the Hokies. “I think this was the kind of game where all of us were playing really well.”
“I didn’t look at the score until we walked off at halftime,” Roy Williams said.
When he did, he saw his team go to the locker room with its biggest halftime lead of the year, 62-26. The Tar Heels have now scored 50 or more points in a half this season 13 times, and 60 or more twice.
“I think [the first half] was the best half we’ve put together [this year], but I think we can still play better,” May said.