By Bret Strelow
CHAPEL HILL — North Carolina had plenty of chances to rebound its own errant shots.
It pulled ahead of Virginia by forcing misses and miscues.
The top-ranked Tar Heels extended their winning streak to 12 games by defeating the Cavaliers 79-69 at the Smith Center on Wednesday night.
UNC (15-1, 2-0 ACC) made only 19 of its 39 inside attempts but turned 21 offensive boards into 21 second-chance points. It had nine second-half steals and finished with a 47-34 rebounding advantage.
“We do need to shoot the ball well to be as good a team as we want to be,” UNC coach Roy Williams said. “To be able to shoot 38 percent and still win the game, it boils down to the backboards. That was the whole key. The backboards should be in our favor — we’re bigger and probably have more bodies than they do.”
Tyler Hansbrough led the Tar Heels with 18 points but shot 6-for-13 from the field. Fellow post player Brandan Wright scored 16 points on 5-for-16 shooting, and Reyshawn Terry didn’t make a field goal for the second straight game.
UNC led 39-37 at the break, and Williams benched Terry, Wright and Ty Lawson early in the second half because of poor defense. Lawson and Terry sat for the next 11 minutes.
A unit made up of four reserves directed UNC’s first important run, and the starters helped seal the outcome with another. The one constant was Marcus Ginyard’s perimeter defense on Virginia point guard Sean Singletary during the final 141/2 minutes.
Singletary’s only second-half field goal, a 3-pointer, pulled the Cavaliers (9-5, 1-1 ACC) within 53-52 with 12:40 left. He attempted only one more shot in the game and finished with 14 points on 5-for-11 shooting.
Virginia managed only six points — they came on back-to-back 3-pointers from Mamadi Diane — over the 101/2 minutes that followed Singletary’s long-range jumper.
“I just felt like guys that were guarding him before were pressuring him a little too much, letting him get on the side of them,” Ginyard said. “That’s when he really does well — he gets that crease on the side of you, he’s taking contact and he starts getting crazy fouls. I really just played off of him and waited for him to come to me.”
Ginyard, Hansbrough, Quentin Thomas, Danny Green and Deon Thompson fueled a 10-0 run that allowed UNC to claim a 63-52 lead with 9:22 left. Thomas had three points and assisted on the final two baskets during that stretch, which included two steals from Thompson and a 3-pointer from Green.
“Everybody that was on the court at that time was taking a lot of pride in stopping Virginia and doing everything that each individual could to help the team at that point,” Ginyard said. “Everybody was just on the same page.”
Diane responded with a pair of 3-pointers to cut the Cavaliers’ deficit to five with 7:39 remaining, but the Tar Heels went on a 9-0 run this time.
Two free throws from Lawson put UNC in front by nine with 5:07 left, and he deflected the next inbounds pass away from Singletary. Lawson drew a foul as he tried to hurdle Singletary en route to the loose ball, and two more free throws gave the Tar Heels a 69-58 advantage.
“I was ready when I came back in,” Lawson said. “We were taking good shots and stopping them on defense.”
Contact Bret Strelow at 704-797-4258 or email@example.com.