CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va.– The 11-6 North Carolina men’s basketball team, 1-3 in conference, faces a pivotal Monday night 7 p.m. matchup in the ACC race when they travel to Charlottesville to take on the surging 13-5 Virginia Cavaliers, 4-1 in ACC play.
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Carolina is coming off a rebounding 82-71 win over Boston College on Saturday to avoid the school’s first ever 0-4 start to the conference season. Virginia rolls into the contest with a comfortable 78-66 victory against Florida State.
Marcus Paige reemerged with 21 points Saturday to lead all scorers while James Michael McAdoo turned in 17 points and six rebounds.
Head Coach Roy Williams says he was pleased with the balanced scoring performance and pointed out that the locker room was a much more hospitable environment following the game.
“Five guys in double figures, you like to have that. We shot over fifty percent in both halves. We’re very pleased, relieved, you can put any adjective you want to in there. But it’s a much better feeling in that locker room,” Coach Williams says.
The Tar Heels will hope to carry the momentum with them as they take on a tough Cavaliers squad featuring a top-notch coach in Tony Bennett and an always rugged defense that will test the patience of Carolina’s shooters.
Coach Williams says he has been impressed with the development of sophomore forward J.P. Tokoto, who tallied 14 points in his last outing.
“J.P. is getting better and better. I think each game he’s getting better and better. We need him to do that,” Coach Williams says.
In the BC game, Coach Williams mixed things up with a surprising starting lineup that included Leslie McDonald and Jackson Simmons. And Coach Williams says he may go with it again in Charlottesville Monday night.
“I don’t know that Leslie had done enough to deserve it, but I wanted to do something. Jackson plays harder than everybody else. That’s the reason that he got the chance. I may stick with it at Charlottesville, and I may not. But I just don’t want to sit back and not do anything, so we tried to change it up,” Coach Williams says.
Freshman Kennedy Meeks says he would characterize the practices over the last week leading up to the ACC showdown against the Cavaliers as intense.
“There’s a lot of intensity to get ready for the game today and preparing for Virginia on Monday. This week in practice has really been intense,” Meeks says.
Last year, Carolina split its two meetings with Virginia, dropping the contest on the road 52-61.