“Man, it was a blast. It was a blessing,” said Noel, who converted 10-of-16 field goals -- 5-of-7 from three-point range, to go with four assists, a block and zero turnovers.
“David’s had a sensational year,” Roy Williams said. “He had a down stretch of four or five games there where he really struggled. But he bounced back from it which shows how mentally tough he is and what kind of a competitive young man he is.”
Reyshawn Terry added 17 points, Tyler Hansbrough chipped in 13 and Marcus Ginyard had 10.
“Basically everybody that came into the game gave us good lifts,” Williams said.
Who's the hottest team in the ACC? Look no further than UNC, winners of six in a row and nine of 10. After winning its two previous contests by 24 points apiece, Carolina has now defeated its last three opponents by an average of 31 points.
The Tar Heels (20-6, 11-4 ACC) certainly weren’t guilty of looking ahead to Saturday’s regular season finale at Duke (27-2, 14-1), but perhaps the Blue Devils were, as they fell at Florida State, 79-74.
UNC has now reached the 20-win plateau 47 times in its 95-year history, including 33 of the last 36 years. Carolina has also assured itself at least a second-place finish in the conference and no worse than a three-seed in next week’s conference tournament.
The Tar Heels lead the all-time series with the Cavaliers, 119-48, including a 61-5 advantage in Chapel Hill (19-2 Smith Center).
Meanwhile, UVa (14-12, 7-8) did little to improve its positioning for NCAA Tournament consideration. In addition, the Cavs’ loss to UNC, coupled with Duke’s failure to complete an undefeated league slate, may have cemented Roy Williams as this year’s ACC Coach of the Year in the minds of the voting media.
All of the above had 21,750 fans downright giddy, but it was the Swan Song performance of Noel, and the subsequent senior speeches, that kept the house rocking deep into the night.
Carolina shot 59 percent from the floor, 55 percent from three-point range, committed only 10 turnovers and dominated the rebounding battle, 45-28. Its defense held Virginia to 32 percent shooting.
After the game, Williams had no complaints.
“It was a great night to be a Tar Heel,” Williams said. “There’s not too many things I can be disappointed about to say the least.”
Two separate 18-2 Carolina runs in the first half – 19 points from Noel – catapulted the Tar Heels to a 49-24 halftime advantage. And it only worsened for the Cavaliers after the break.
“It got away from us before the jump ball today,” Virginia coach Dave Leitao said. “We weren’t prepared. Physically and mentally, we weren’t ready to play. They’re 1,000 times better (since the first meeting between the two teams).”
UVa’s 72-68 win over UNC in Charlottesville on Jan. 19 is now only a distant memory.
“We are much better,” Williams said. “Our team has put in the effort and concentration to make us that much better.”