Poor shooting continues to plague Hoos in 54-44 loss to UNC

By Scott Ratcliffe

Photo: UVA Athletics

On a day when just about everything else was going Virginia’s way, the Cavaliers simply couldn’t put the ball in the basket for long stretches during a 54-44 home loss to No. 10 North Carolina on Saturday.

John Paul Jones Arena, a building the first-place Tar Heels hadn’t won in since 2012, proved to be a shooting range for UNC’s Cormac Ryan, who sank six 3-pointers — five of ‘em by halftime — and led all scorers with 18 points on the evening as Carolina (21-6, 13-3 ACC) snapped an eight-game skid at JPJ.

“I thought we ran into some screens uncharacteristically,” Tony Bennett said of defending Ryan, “we didn’t lower our shoulder and get on his numbers and chase, and didn’t give enough help and got lost a couple times and then he made us pay with those shots.”

Meanwhile, the Cavaliers (20-8, 11-6) shot just 17 percent (5 for 30) across the opening 20 minutes, misfiring on 12-consecutive shots at one point and getting just one to drop over a stretch of more than 15 minutes of game time, as the visitors built a 26-16 lead by the break.

UNC big man Armando Bacot picked up his second personal foul at the 12:39 mark of the opening half and was a non-factor early on, as was RJ Davis, the ACC’s leading scorer (21.3 ppg coming in), who put up a goose egg (0 points on 0-for-6 shooting) in the half.

Still, Virginia’s first-half shooting woes combined with Ryan’s hot hand gave the Heels some significant separation to start the second half.

UVA was able to get within six points on four separate occasions early in the second, as Reece Beekman and Jordan Minor combined for a pair of baskets out of the gate to cut it to 26-20 with 17:47 remaining.

Minor scored again on a stickback to make it 33-27 as the clock went under 15 minutes, but the Heels responded with 7 unanswered points to push the lead to 13, capped by a Bacot jam with 12:22 to go.

The Wahoos continued to scrap and were able to chip away at their deficit, as another Minor second-chance bucket with 5:30 left capped a 9-4 spurt and got it back down to single digits, 44-36.

Later, Isaac McKneely connected on a 3-ball from the corner on a nice feed from Beekman out of a Cavalier timeout, trimming it to 47-40 with 3:12 on the clock, and then the Hoos forced a shot-clock violation on Carolina’s ensuing trip just before the final media timeout with 2:27 remaining.

McKneely drew a foul out of the break and nailed a pair of free throws, and UVA was closer than it had been since midway through the first half, trailing 47-42 with 2:13 to go.

Ryan Dunn came away with a block of a Bacot attempt on the ensuing possession, leading to a foul on the other end that sent Minor to the charity stripe for a one-and-one with a chance to make it a one-possession affair with 1:50 showing, but the Merrimack graduate transfer came up short on the front end. The Heels grabbed the rebound and scored an easy basket before sealing the game at the foul line with 5 makes in 6 tries over the final minute.

“The defense held us in there enough to try to stay attached…,” said Bennett after the loss, his team’s third in its last four games. “Some of those shots, we need to finish and knock ‘em down, but you just keep trying to get quality looks and work hard; and [the Heels] defended well, too.”

Virginia shot just 28 percent (16 for 58) from the field and 14 percent from beyond the arc (2 for 14), making 10 of 15 (67 percent) from the free-throw line. UNC edged the Hoos on the boards, 43-39, and blocked 10 Virginia shots on the evening, limiting UVA to just 5 assists all game long (all by Beekman).

Minor led the Cavaliers with 12 points and 10 rebounds, with a good majority of that (8 points and 7 boards) coming after halftime. Beekman added 10 points, 7 rebounds, a block and a steal, while only turning the ball over twice, but had a rough day shooting-wise (4 for 14 FG). McKneely finished with 7 points on 2-of-9 shooting (1 of 5 from deep).

Aside from Ryan’s game-high 18 points, Davis wound up with 12 points — all in the second half — on 1-for-14 shooting (1 for 8 from downtown), as he did most of his damage at the free-throw line (9 for 10).

“We know he’s a great player, great shooter,” Beekman said of locking down Davis, “so yeah, I just wanted to make it hard for him throughout the whole game.”

Bacot finished with his 14th double-double of the season (10 points, 13 rebounds), as the Heels shot 32 percent from the field (16 for 50) and from 3-point range (7 for 22).

“We’ll keep going and get ready for the next one,” Bennett said.

Team Notes

Courtesy UVA Media Relations

  • UVA’s eight-game home win streak vs. North Carolina ended
  • UVA has lost back-to-back games for the second time this season
  • UVA had five assists (all from Reece Beekman) marking its fewest assists in a game since five vs. San Francisco on Nov. 27, 2020
  • UVA scored fewer than 50 points for the third straight game (5th overall)
  • UVA scored fewer than 50 points in three straight games for the first time since 2019-20 (vs. Arizona State, Maine and Purdue)
  • UVA’s 27.6 percent (16 of 58) field goal shooting was its lowest since 23.4 percent (11 of 47) vs. Wisconsin on Dec. 4, 2013
  • North Carolina led 26-16 at the half
  • UVA scored fewer than 20 points in the first half for the second straight game
  • UVA started 2 of 16 from the field and finished the first half 5 of 30 (16.7 percent)
  • The 16.7 percent first half shooting was UVA’s lowest since a 3 of 22 effort vs. Florida State on Jan. 24, 2009
  • UVA is 1-2 vs. ranked opponents in 2023-24
  • UVA is 14-2 at John Paul Jones Arena
  • UVA forced one shot-clock violation (24 in 2023-24)

Series Notes

  • UVA is 62-135 all-time vs. North Carolina in the series that dates to 1910-11
  • Virginia is 38-45 all-time vs. the Tar Heels in Charlottesville, including an 8-5 mark at JPJ
  • Bennett is 14-12 all-time vs. UNC, including a loss as head coach of Washington State in the 2008 NCAA Sweet 16

Player Notes

  • Double Figure Scorers: Jordan Minor (12), Reece Beekman (10)
  • Beekman reached double figures for the 53rd time (23 in 2023-24)
  • Beekman (1 steal) moved into a tie for fourth on UVA’s single-season list with 60
  • Beekman is three steals shy of becoming UVA’s all-time steals leader
  • Minor reached double figures for the 74th time (4 at UVA)
  • Minor added 10 rebounds for his first double-double at UVA (34th career)
  • Ryan Dunn (3 blocks) is tied for seventh on UVA’s single-season blocks list with 66
  • Elijah Gertrude matched a season high with two steals
  • Dante Harris matched a season high with two steals


Virginia will be on the road for the final two times of the regular season this week, traveling to Boston College on Wednesday (9 p.m., ESPNU) and Duke on Saturday (6 p.m., ESPN).