Gut Check

Gut Check

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – Marcus Ginyard contemplated leaving the Smith Center with a pair of crutches on Sunday night, but decided to tough out his right ankle sprain and nagging toe injury on his other foot. Less than 48 hours later, the junior wing played a crucial 35 minutes in No. 5 North Carolina's 75-74 victory at Virginia.

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"I'm just out here trying to make a difference, just trying to give a positive contribution to this team every game…," Ginyard said, after contributing seven points, six rebounds and three assists. "This time of year – it's just that time that you feel like you're going to get bumps and bruises. You've just got to play through them. And they hurt, but the win makes it feel a little better."

Tyler Hansbrough (23 points, seven rebounds) connected on a quasi-hook shot on the baseline with 22 seconds left to give the Tar Heels (23-2, 8-2 ACC) a 75-71 lead, before Sean Singletary (27 points, seven assists) drilled a 3-pointer with 10 seconds remaining to give the Cavaliers an opportunity to pull the upset.

But it took Virginia (11-12, 1-9 ACC) too long to foul on the ensuing UNC possession, sending Wayne Ellington (19 points, five rebounds) to the line with 2.9 ticks left in the contest. The sophomore guard missed the front end of a 1-and-1, but Danny Green (nine points, five rebounds) kept the ball alive on the rebound, effectively running out the clock.

"We just made plays down the stretch," Ginyard said. "We definitely just pulled it together and it was a team effort."

Quentin Thomas was expected to play all but a few minutes at point guard on Tuesday night, but Singletary kept the senior in foul trouble all evening, forcing Ginyard to work 20 minutes at the point. The Cavaliers' two-time All-ACC playmaker took advantage of the Tar Heels' woes at the point, but his teammates struggled to find any resemblance of an offensive attack as Virginia shot 37.8 percent (28-of-74) on the night.

Thomas and Ginyard – representing the Tar Heels' third- and fourth-string options at the point – executed Williams' up-tempo offense efficiently. UNC built a 38-31 halftime lead on a 53.3 percent shooting clip, and then shot 51.7 percent in the second half to post a 52.5 field goal percentage (31-of-59) for the night. It marked the first time in ACC play that the Tar Heels shot better than 50 percent in both halves.

Not all things were positive on this icy February night, however, as North Carolina committed 17 turnovers to just 12 assists – the fourth game in a row that the assist-to-turnover margin has been negative, corresponding directly to Ty Lawson's continued absence due to a left ankle sprain.

"I am extremely proud of how tough our kids are," head coach Roy Williams said. "I am not extremely proud of how we handled the ball and those kinds of things, but that is a tough bunch of kids in that locker room."

There was no doubt when the final horn sounded that Ginyard had made a resounding case for this squad's leader on the floor. The Arlington, Va. native sat out the final 12 minutes of Sunday's double-overtime victory over Clemson, and the coaching staff was not sure if he was even going to attempt to play until minutes before the opening tip on Tuesday night.

But Ginyard calmly stepped up and drained a 3-pointer with 6:38 remaining in regulation after Virginia had cut North Carolina's lead to 60-59. And it was the junior wing, hobbled and hurting, that turned to his teammates, clapping and encouraging a defensive stop when the Tar Heels were up by three with less than 3:00 to play.

Williams didn't need many words to describe Ginyard in his postgame comments, simply referring to the junior as a "gamer."

Ginyard has not been alone in the training room in recent days. Hansbrough sat out Monday's practice after draining an ingrown toenail on his right foot, Deon Thompson (12 points, six rebounds) hyper-extended his left knee during the first half against the Cavaliers and Bobby Frasor was already out for the season with a torn ACL.

Thompson summed up the injury situation as well as anyone could after the game saying, "Everybody just keeps getting hurt, so I just tried to push through it, because we'd have been really slim if I had stayed out the whole game."

North Carolina's next game is on Saturday afternoon at home against Virginia Tech, and Williams was quick to welcome the coming three-day break.

"We have certainly had no rest," Williams said. "We lost last Wednesday to Duke, and I don't care what anyone says, that affects you. Then to get off to such a bad start Sunday and have to dig deep and end up winning the Clemson game in two overtimes, and then to turn around less than 48 hours later and play up here, we have to get some rest."

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