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Virginia 61, North Carolina 52

The SportsXchange

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. -- Virginia rallied in the second half to beat North Carolina 61-52 in the Atlantic Coast Conference opener for both teams Sunday night at the John Paul Jones Arena.

It looked as if North Carolina (10-4) would run away with the game early in the second half. The Tar Heels led 36-28, but Virginia (11-3) responded with an 18-4 run to take a six-point lead.

The run began when Joe Harris hit a 3-pointer from the left wing with 16:11 to play. On North Carolina's next possession, James Michael McAdoo appeared to have an easy dunk, but Darion Atkins blocked McAdoo from behind.

Virginia got out in transition, and Akil Mitchell put back an Evans miss to make it 36-33. The run ended when freshman Evan Nolte hit two 3-pointers on consecutive possessions to put the Cavaliers up 46-40 with 8:51 to go.

Virginia opened up a 49-42 lead late in the second half, its largest advantage of the game to that point, when Harris hit a driving layup and was fouled with 7:06 to play. Bullock then got hot, hitting a two 3-pointers and then an offensive putback with 3:11 to play, cutting North Carolina's deficit to 51-50.

The Tar Heels did not make a field goal the rest of the game, managing just two free throws as the Cavaliers pulled away.

Both teams benefitted from the return of injured players. Senior point guard Jontel Evans was back in the lineup after missing the previous four games with a foot injury. He came off the bench to contribute eight points and a team-high six assists, settling the team in the second half after a shaky start.

Bullock, who missed the Tar Heels' previous game against UNLV after suffering a concussion in practice on Dec. 27, had a game-high 22 points.

Harris scored 19 points on 7-of-11 shooting. He was the only Virginia player in double figures.

The Cavaliers shot 8-for-14 from 3-point range, while the Tar Heels went just 5-for-17.

North Carolina led 25-24 at the half despite shooting just 32 percent from the field.

The opening period was closely contested throughout. The Cavaliers led by as many as five, while the Tar Heels never held more than a three-point lead.

Bullock led North Carolina with nine first-half points, four of which came from the free throw line.

The Cavaliers struggled inside the 3-point arc early on but made the most of their long-distance opportunities to keep the game close before halftime. Virginia was 4-for-7 (57.1 percent) from 3-point distance compared to just 5-for-17 (29.4 percent) from 2-point range before the break.

Harris led Virginia with seven first-half points.

NOTES: North Carolina still leads the all-time series 127-50. ... The Tar Heels began play Sunday as the only undefeated ACC team at the John Paul Jones Arena, having gone 4-0.
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