Tomas Woldetensae Carries Hoos, Almost Sinks Them, Then Fixes Everything

Game Highlights

64-62.  If this game had taken place in any of the past six years, the announcers would have repeatedly stated how this pace "favors Virginia" and what a great job they were doing imposing their own tempo on the game.  As has been the case, in fact, during many a recent clash between UVA and North Carolina.

North Carolina this year, though, is not so North Carolinish.  Even if they play uptempo, and they do try, they can't overwhelm opponents with a barrage of high-end athleticism and scoring.  It's not what Cole Anthony signed up for, and his frustration was on his sleeve throughout.  "This is bullshit," he could be heard saying on camera, before the handshake line and after the result was finally, definitely, in UVA's favor, and it wasn't surprising to hear.   Carolina has won three games since Christmas, not at all in February, and the atmosphere in the Dean Dome reflects that futility.

But if UNC is nothing like UNC, UVA is also very different.  The Hoos led most of the game, and went on a handful of miniature runs to open the lead to a couple possessions.  In years past, it would've felt like the start of a Cavalanche.  But no such thing was forthcoming.  When the announcers observed that UVA had made five buckets in a row, they promptly missed every shot from then til halftime.  When they took a six point lead in the second half, UNC scored the next seven.  There would be no Cavalanche.  This offense isn't likely to ever have one.

Even so, playing from ahead is better than playing from behind.  UVA forced Carolina to play catch-up all day.  When Carolina did tie or take a small lead, UVA grabbed it right back.  Mamadi Diakite, still getting used to playing the starring role rather than the supporting cast, was brilliant inside the arc, including on free throws.  Tomas Woldetensae was scorching from outside.  Woldetensae made the mistake of the game, fouling Christian Keeling (an excellent foul shooter) on a three-point miss.  Keeling sent the Hoos to a 1-point deficit, Kyle Guy-style.  Fortunately, there were 10 seconds left, not zero-point-something, and Woldetensae got the chance for redemption, sinking the game-winning three-pointer in a play reminiscent of another seminal tournament moment.  This time it was Kihei Clark, who, having earned the defense's respect, watched most of Carolina's defense collapse on him, and kicked it out to his most dangerous shooter.  If fouling a three-point shooter with ten seconds to go is a brain fart, leaving the opponent's best shooter to help against a five-footer in the lane is a worse one.

Woldetensae has now strung together enough hot-shooting games that you have almost no choice but to get your hopes up a little.  He nearly shot Louisville out of their own gym; he did so very emphatically to UNC.  But another shooter came alive in Chapel Hill: Casey Morsell, though shooting only two long bombs, hit them both.  He's now three-for-five in his last two games.  Could that be the start of something?  If so, it'll make the options more interesting for Kihei Clark, who has taken to trying to spark some offense by yelling "Geronimo" and making kamikaze runs at the basket.  Hit a weird-looking layup or die trying.  He succeeds often enough that opposing defenders now seem to think it's necessary to help their five-star freshman and their 6'10" center off of a guy who's already hit five threes today.  What if he always had two shooters he could kick to?  That'd be fun, no?  Beating Carolina in this fashion proves it can work.

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