North Carolina got the message. The Tar Heels, stung after consecutive conference defeats to open league play, played a more focused and spirited game on Thursday night to topple Virginia 83-61in Charlottesville.
After a subpar game against Wake Forest, Tyler Hansbrough scored 28 points — including 15-for-17 free throws — and added 12 rebounds and three blocks. Point guard Ty Lawson, who also suffered through a poor game against Wake, bounced back to notch 19 points and nine assists against only one turnover.
If there was one noticeable difference between the Heels against UVa and in their previous two conference contests, it was the heavy emphasis on sharing the ball. The word "selfish" was tossed around by nearly everyone after the offensive meltdown against Wake, and from the opening bell the Heels all looked to make the extra pass. Hansbrough, who certainly isn't known for his post passing, also made some kick-outs to open shooters.
"One of the main reasons we have turned the ball over is because of carelessness or selfishness," senior Danny Green said after the game.
Hansbrough added that "We have to understand that when there are people around us, there are other people open and that is what we did better tonight, find open people."
In truth, the Tar Heels still showed cracks defensively, but Virginia's shooters simply weren't able to take advantage. That said, no one was going to complain after the week that was for UNC.
Miami travels to Chapel Hill for a Saturday night game in which UNC again will be the heavy favorite. After accruing two early losses, all of these games essentially are must-wins if the Heels are to have any chance to win the ACC. Along with that, of course, is the opportunity to gain a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
To see the box score against UVa, click here.