CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — Virginia didn’t stray for long.
The third-ranked Cavaliers returned to their winning formula two nights after their first loss of the season, stringing together nine consecutive points during a second-half burst to pull away in a 75-64 victory over 12th-ranked North Carolina on Monday night at the Smith Center.
“They fought,” Virginia coach Tony Bennett said of his team. “I think we got back to the mentality we needed to (have). It’s a blue-collar way. It started with that.”
Guard Malcolm Brogdon scored 17 points, guard Justin Anderson poured in 16 points, guard London Perrantes had 15 points and forward Anthony Gill added 13 points for the first-place Cavaliers (20-1, 8-1 Atlantic Coast Conference).
Virginia’s bid for an unbeaten season ended with a setback to Duke, which had a late-game scoring spree.
Not North Carolina, which managed only 15 points across the first 16 1/2 minutes of the second half.
“It was a fighting mood,” Gill said. “We hang our hats on transition defense. We had to go out and just hunker down.”
Guard Marcus Paige’s 15 points, forward Brice Johnson’s 14 points and forward Kennedy Meeks’ 11 points paced North Carolina, which lost consecutive games for the first time this season.
“They dominated in the second half,” North Carolina coach Roy Williams said. “I’m disappointed in our sense of urgency at the (turning) point of the game. … We gave in a couple of times.”
Williams said Virginia played like a team that had its feelings hurt in the previous game.
“They came off a big loss and they came in really focused,” he said.
Virginia, which ranked first nationally in scoring defense by allowing 50.2 points per game entering the week, kept tabs on Paige, a preseason All-American. He was held without a point for almost 33 minutes of game time (15:14 of the first half to 2:22 of the second half). Ten of his points came in the final 2:22 after the Tar Heels trailed by 18 points.
“I thought London and Malcolm did a good job and made him work for his looks,” Bennett said of the defense on Paige. “Malcolm’s size, at times, bothered him.”
Gill’s putback basket gave the Cavaliers a 52-44 lead — the largest advantage for either team to that point — with slightly more than 10 minutes remaining.
Brogdon’s 3-pointer made it 57-44, capping Virginia’s 9-0 spurt.
Perrantes scored nine of his points in the second half, reaching a double-digit point total for only the second time this season.
“(The coaches) talked to me a little bit about taking my shots,” Perrantes said. “It just opens up everything for my teammates.”
The additional offense was evident in Virginia’s largest point total in regulation of any ACC game this season.
“That adds another dimension for us,” Bennett said of Perrantes’ offense, which included six assists, “and we needed every bit of it.”
After a 58-point second half against Syracuse a week earlier, the Tar Heels (17-6, 7-3) endured a miserable second half for the second game in a row. They managed 24 points in the second half in an eventual overtime loss Saturday at Louisville.
“They were tough enough to execute their plays down the stretch,” Paige said of the Cavaliers. “They run their stuff and they trust their stuff. We’re trying to figure out how to do that.”
North Carolina ended up with its lowest ACC point total of the season, though it had only 60 points through regulation at Louisville.
The Tar Heels led 33-32 at halftime, as Meeks’ tip-in at the buzzer was ruled good after an extended video review.
Johnson and Meeks combined for 19 first-half points.
North Carolina feasted on some early inside shots, taking a 14-8 lead and causing Bennett to call timeout. The Tar Heels scored on eight consecutive possessions during one juncture.
Anderson led Virginia with 11 first-half points.
NOTES: The game was the 4,000th in ACC regular-season history. … Virginia used F Mike Tobey in the starting lineup for the third time in ACC action, with F Anthony Gill coming off the bench for only the second time this season. Tobey scored eight points. … Virginia extended
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