Virginia can't slow down North Carolina

The SportsXchange

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- A smaller starting lineup that includes swingman P.J. Hairston provided big results for North Carolina.

Hairston scored 29 points and North Carolina blew past Virginia 93-81, putting on a stunning offensive display against one of the country's best defensive teams Saturday afternoon at the Smith Center.

"They set screens for me and I hit shots," Hairston said, pointing out that he might have a quickness advantage compared to some defenders at the forward position.

The Tar Heels snapped a two-game losing streak in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Virginia hadn't allowed a team to score 70 points against it all season, and the Tar Heels (17-8, 7-5 ACC) eclipsed that mark with more than 9 minutes to play.

Third-place Virginia (18-7, 8-4) entered the game allowing 52.3 points per game, the second-stingiest defense in the country. The Cavaliers didn't seem to adjust to North Carolina's quicker lineup.

"There are advantages to do that at times," Virginia coach Tony Bennett said of North Carolina using a smaller alignment.

The 93 points allowed are the most surrendered to an ACC opponent in Bennett's four seasons.

The teams not only are jockeying for spots in the upper half of the ACC standings, but the result is bound to impact their wavering NCAA Tournament credentials.

Hairston, a sophomore making only his third career starter, had his previous career-best scoring game of 23 points Wednesday night at Duke. He has scored in double figures in seven consecutive games.

Hairston made 6 of 12 shots from 3-point range. He said guards driving toward the basket allowed him to find more open spaces.

"I think it helps all of us," North Carolina guard Marcus Paige said. "Gives us another dimension, another big-time scorer out there. ... We took good shots and made a lot of shots."

Joe Harris scored a career-best 27 points for Virginia, which couldn't keep up despite shooting 58.5 percent from the field and making a season-high 12 3-point shots. Harris, a junior swingman who made 10 of 13 shots from the field, has hit for at least 20 points in four consecutive games.

"I like his efficiency," Bennett said. "He's shooting the ball at a good clip."

Paige poured in 17 points and Dexter Strickland had 12 points for the Tar Heels.

North Carolina scored the first eight points of the second half, breaking a halftime deadlock.

The lineup gives the Tar Heels better spacing, North Carolina coach Roy Williams said.

"We made some shots, there's no question about that," Williams said. "We've got a good feeling in that locker room, and we needed that."

A Bullock 3-pointer pushed the lead to 53-47 with more than 15 minutes remaining, significant because that gave the Tar Heels more points than in the entire first meeting with Virginia.

Harris had 11 straight points for the Cavaliers during one stretch, but they couldn't slow down the Tar Heels at the other end.

North Carolina held an 83-65 lead before Virginia's 9-0 spurt.

Virginia fell to 3-23 all-time in the Smith Center, with all the victories since 2000.

Virginia's Jontel Evans hit a running 3-pointer at the first-half buzzer to forge a 40-40 tie. Evans finished with 12 points. The Cavaliers shot 62.5 percent from the field in the opening half.

Paul Jesperson made three of Virginia's eight first-half 3-point baskets, but he didn't score again. Evans ended up with a season-high 12 points.

The Cavaliers broke out to a 19-9 lead, aided by 4-for-5 shooting on 3-pointers. They were on their way to scoring on 12 of their first 18 possessions.

North Carolina, which defended the perimeter so well for more than a half in Wednesday night's tussle at Duke, was burned by the Cavaliers' 8-of-10 accuracy overall from the field to start the game.

An 8-0 run helped steady the Tar Heels, who eventually pulled ahead at 31-30 on James Michael McAdoo's shot off an offensive rebound. By then, Hairston had heated up, hitting three 3-pointers in the final 5:15 of the first half.

Notes: North Carolina is 9-2 in its first games following a loss to Duke. ... Hairston had 93 points in his 111 minutes of playing time entering the game. ... Virginia guard Justin Anderson, who was the most-recent ACC Rookie of the Week, was 0 for 4 from the field Tuesday night against Virginia Tech but recovered to score eight points. ... North Carolina honored 2012 ACC Player of the Year Tyler Zeller at halftime, with his jersey honored in the arena rafters. ... Virginia forward/center Mike Tobey remains out after missing his fourth game because of a bout with mononucleosis. ... North Carolina reserve center Joel James sat out his second game in a row because of symptoms of a concussion. ... The Cavaliers were going for their first regular-season sweep in the series (when the teams have met twice) since the 2001-02 season. Virginia opened ACC play this season by winning 61-52 on Jan. 6 in Charlottesville.
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