by Jacob Swiger
Nothing stands between UNC and Duke after the Heels finished off Virginia 76-71 Saturday.
Duke survived overtime to top Miami earlier in Durham.
The Cavaliers did a decent job slowing down the Tar Heel offense early by playing an aggressive zone defense that collapsed on Tyler Hansbrough and Deon Thompson.
Carolina responded to the zone pressure by shooting a fury of 3-pointers. The Tar Heels attempted 25 3-pointers for the second game in a row, and shot 36 percent from beyond the arc, down from 64 percent against the Terrapins.
With the trip to Durham looming, Roy Williams has to be concerned with Carolina's reliance on 3-pointers.
The Heels tend to thrive when they shoot less than 15 3s a game, and shying away from inside scoring is the last thing Carolina can afford against Duke.
I'll make a bold prediction and say Carolina will lose against Duke if they shoot more than 20 3-pointers.
Virginia struggled on offense, shooting only 37 percent against Carolina's constant pressure and had very few good looks as the basket.
Perhaps the most significant statistics were the minutes UNC's starters played. Roy Williams put in the reserves a few minutes earlier than he normally would and kept all five starters at or below 33 minutes played.
Duke on the other hand, had four out of five starters play at least 38 minutes.
Wayne Ellington chipped in another 20-point game -- the fourth 20-point game out of his last six games. Ellington converted four of nine 3-pointers and continued to carefully pick his shots.
Virginia kept things interesting for most of the first half until the Heels pulled away for an 8-point lead with around four minutes left. The Tar Heels never looked back after this point and rode improved shooting from Ellington, Danny Green and Ty Lawson in the second half.
Tyler Hansbrough moved into a tie for second place with Dickie Hemric on the ACC's scoring list and needs only 182 points to tie J.J. Redick's record.
With seven regular season games, the ACC tournament and an anticipated deep run in March, Hansbrough should have no problem passing Redick.