What started out looking like a Tar Heel romp turned towards the end of the first half. Reggie Bullock and P.J. Hairston lit it up from beyond the arc in the first half in the midst of a 15-0 UNC run that put the Wildcats down 30-11 with about 8 minutes left in the half. The Tar Heels would own a lead of roughly 20 for most of the half.
While 'Nova Nation bemoaned the score, the 'Cats battled backd admirably, bringing the deficit down to 8 at halftime. A big part of that was the adjustment to defending the 3-point line and feeding JayVaughn Pinkston down low against an overmatched UNC frontline.
After the break, 'Nova stormed back into the game, quickly tying the contest and even taking the lead on a couple of occasions. In particular, Pinkston and Mouphtaou Yarou dominated down low as James Michael McAdoo and Hairston struggled to keep pace with the bruising 'Nova frontline.
In the end, a string of UNC 3-pointers was made to be the difference. Hairston and Bullock traded 3's on 3 straight possessions, and 'Nova never found a way back into the game. What looked so promising after an incredible turnaround was lost as a 2-minute defensive lapse spoiled an amazing comeback.
It may seem like a harsh ending to the season, but Jay Wright's squad undid itself in this one. 'Nova Nation saw outstanding performances from Darrun Hilliard (18 points, 6 rebounds), JayVaughn Pinkston (20 points, 8 rebounds), and Mouphtaou Yarou (17 points, 8 rebounds).
Ryan Arcidiacono struggled, going 2-11 from the field. Understandable from the rookie in his first NCAA appearance, but as has been the case most of the year, when he struggles, 'Nova struggles to win.
There's a lot of "there's always next year" talk at the end of the season, but it's worth mentioning seniors Mouphtaou Yarou and Maurice Sutton. The first, a 4-year starter and the rock of this year's team, will be missed for his on-court contributions. The former will be missed for his energy, team spirit, and commitment to the program.
We'll have more over the next week.