The return home was welcome for Carolina after enduring six road games in its last eight outings.
“That stretch was very difficult,” Roy Williams said. “You’re never satisfied…you want to go 8-0, but it would take a really, really great club to do better than we did.”
With the win the Tar Heels (21-3, 9-2 ACC) clinched their first winning conference record since the 2000-01 season.
His outside shot was giving him problems of late, so Rashad McCants took the ball to the basket strong most of night, scoring 23 points on 9 of 12 shooting. Later, McCants began to find his range, nailing two three-pointers.
“I was glad to see Rashad make a couple, but I never lost confidence in his shot,” Roy Williams said.
“I really wasn’t out there worrying about me,” McCants added.
Sean May continued his inside tear, registering his fifth double-double in seven games, with 17 points and 16 rebounds.
“The difference now is I’m getting started earlier in the game and trying to get myself off to a good start,” said May, who did most of his damage in the first half. “I’m conscious always of how many rebounds I have, because it is a personal goal of mine to try and get a double-double every night.”
Raymond Felton contributed 12 points, five rebounds, four assists and three steals, nailing two of three jumpers from beyond the arc.
UNC shot over 53 percent in each half and won the rebounding battle, 38-26; while holding the Cavs to 39 percent shooting for the game.
“I thought we got a lot of good looks,” UVa coach Pete Gillen said. “If you don’t put the ball in the basket against the highest scoring team in the country, you’re going to have trouble.”
It was ‘80s throwback night with both teams adorning uniforms similar to those worn by James Worthy and Ralph Sampson. Virginia has won just twice in Chapel Hill since then.
Compared to Carolina’s most recent 110-76 demolition in Charlottesville, early on the game was contested much more like those featuring Jeff Lamp and Michael Jordan, than the embarrassing beating the Tar Heels administered to the Wahoos just two weeks ago.
Earlier in the week, Gillen said he was confident his team would not be “intimidated” this time around; and the Wahoos did stick around most of the first half.
Virginia (13-10, 4-8) was within 24-20 with just over five minutes to go before intermission. But a 14-0 run by UNC over the next 4:03, quickly made it a laugher.
Gillen’s attempt to slow tempo and keep Virginia in the game eventually became merely a device to keep the final score respectable. Soon it would be scrapped, and Carolina would turn the game into another familiar rout.
“They’ve got pro players,” Gillen said. “We wanted to hang around.”
Although it was not intended to be a tribute, at the 18:12 mark of the second half and trailing by 26, Gillen instructed his offense in a traditional “Four Corners” set famously driven by Dean Smith’s Tar Heels throughout the ‘80s.
In the 1982 ACC Tournament championship – the last one without a shot clock or a three-point shot (except for 1984), North Carolina preserved a minimal lead for over seven minutes to ultimately edge the Cavs in Greensboro, 47-45. The Tar Heels were awarded the top seed in the East Regional and would go on to give Smith his first of two national titles.
More than anything else, that game sparked the two most significant rule changes in college basketball – with Smith as their most vocal proponent – since the dunk was reinstated as legal for the 1976-77 season.
Over two decades worth of water has moved under the proverbial bridge since then, but one constant remains – UNC is again near or atop the basketball world. Now, it’s Virginia that wants to slow the pace.
“We can play either way,” Felton said. “We can run or we can play a slow-paced game. Basically, we can do whatever it takes to get the job done.”
Marvin Williams missed the game with a turf toe. His status for Saturday’s 1 p.m. match-up with Clemson is not yet known.
“We want to get him back out there,” Roy Williams said. “I thought it would be best and give him the day off and tomorrow off. But we do realize these things can hang around. He’s probably going to be able to play, but it’s going to be very painful for him.”
The Tigers are 0-for-50 all-time in Chapel Hill.