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Hubert Davis hoping Tar Heels will benefit from extra practice time this week

It’s the night of Friday, Feb. 23, with the UNC men’s basketball team just under 24 hours away from playing its biggest game of the season.

North Carolina (20-6, 12-3), which owns the tiebreaker with Duke atop the ACC, will be playing on Saturday afternoon in Charlottesville, The Tar Heels are faced with the tall task of beating UVA – on the road – for the first time since 2012.

UNC was among the NCAA Championship favorites a few weeks ago, but then lost three consecutive Tuesday games to Georgia Tech, Clemson and Syracuse. North Carolina offset those losses with big wins over Duke, Miami and Virginia Tech, but it’s no longer a top contender.

Between last weekend’s win over the Hokies and tomorrow’s matchup with UVA, UNC didn’t have a game. Not only did this give the Tar Heels some much-needed rest, but also some extra practice time.

“One of the things I’m excited about this week – not having a midweek game – is that for the first time in a long time, we can actually practice as opposed to practicing for preparation for a particular opponent,” North Carolina head coach Hubert Davis said during the ACC’s weekly coaches conference call Monday.

During North Carolina’s 10-game winning streak that spanned from late December-late January, it limited every opponent to 70 points or less. UNC’s newly-discovered defensive prowess was particularly strong on the perimeter, highlighted by limiting Clemson to a 1-of-18 mark from 3-point land in their first matchup.

“In that 10-game stretch, I thought we were really locked in, particularly halfcourt defending without fouling, finishing possessions with a rebound, protecting the paint and also protecting the 3,” Davis told Saturday Down South. “Those are things we’ve talked about as a team that we’ve got to get back to. It’s just being more consistent and sound from a fundamental standpoint.”

Since losing to Georgia Tech, Tar Heel opponents have scored 74 points in every game. In four of those six games, North Carolina’s opposition has reached the 80-point plateau.

Even though Virginia Tech scored 81 in UNC’s win last weekend, star guard RJ Davis thinks the defense is finally starting to turn a corner again.

““I think we kind of got our groove back in terms of our defensive mindset,” Davis said in the same. “It was in the gaps, it was talking, getting through screens and the help side was there. I think this is definitely something we can improve on going into the bye week, where we can catch our breath a little bit.”

During the UVA game, we’ll see firsthand how much the Tar Heels practiced defense this week.

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Story originally appeared on Tarheels Wire