Relentless Second Half Propels Cavaliers Over the Tar Heels

Ken Cross

January 13, 2023 at 11:48 am.

Virginia used the same lineup for the last 15:12 of this week’s 65-58 win over North Carolina in winning their eighth straight home outing against the Tar Heels.

Virginia forward Ben Vander Plas came off the bench and was the story on both ends of the floor as he led Virginia in scoring with 17 points, while pulling down eight boards.

Maybe even more of a factor was how Vander Plas was able to accentuate the interior in the second half with a solid physicality.

That level of play worked to shut down North Carolina center Jalen Washington in the second half after Tar Heels starter Armando Bacot went down with an ankle injury with 18:42 to play in the first half and never returned.

Vander Plas’ defensive style held Washington to 0-for-4 shooting in the second half after he was 5-of-7 with 12 points in the first and was the key for the Tar Heels with Bacot and Pete Nance, who was also out of the lineup with an injury.

“We tried to be real active and run some different stuff,” said Virginia head coach Tony Bennett. “We were struggling and went small and we played better in the five and just went without guards.”

Kihei Clark, Reece Beekman and Armaan Franklin logged from 36-38:30 minutes and the Cavaliers were able to get solid play as well as leadership from all three guards.

“We tried to be real active and run some different things and decided to go,” explained Bennett. “Because we were struggling, we went small and we played better in the five and just went with our guards.”

After Carolina guard Caleb Love hit his third three in a late three-minute span, Beekman scored on a layup off a clear-out which gave Virginia a 63-58 lead and solidified the win.

In the first half, Washington scored seven of nine points as North Carolina took a 16-13 lead with 8:02 to play before halftime. He was able to score a pair in the paint late in the half and convert a one-and-one on the second layup which gave the Tar Heels a 27-20 margin with 2:16 left.

Vander Plas was able to match Washington with his aggressiveness in the second half as he helped Virginia create an advantage inside with Bacot and Nance out of the lineup.

“They were trying to get post-feeds early in the second half in front of their bench,” noted Vander Plas. “I was just trying to force the catch away from the box.”

Vander Plas later nailed a three from the top of the key as Virginia took the lead for good at 42-40 with 12:43 to play. He then finished a 13-3 Cavaliers run with his slam dunk off a rebound as the Cavaliers took a 46-40 lead with 11:16 left in the game.

Virginia freshman Isaac McKneely finished with 11 points as he was a key in making 3-of-4 triples. He answered Love’s second three with his own three-point field goal off the left wing that gave Virginia some breathing room at 61-55 with 2:21 to play.

“Since this summer, I have had high expectations for him and he’s definitely living up to that,” said Beekman. “He’s another weapon that we added, just being able to space the floor for other guys, so he helps in a lot of ways.”