Loss in ACC quarters deals blow to North Carolina’s tournament hopes

GREENSBORO, NC – North Carolina’s already tenuous NCAA tournament hopes suffered a blow Thursday night in a 68-59 loss to No. 13 Virginia in the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament quarterfinals.

Jayden Gardner had 17 points and 10 rebounds, and Reece Beekman added 15 points, 5 assists and 5 steals for the second-seeded Cavaliers (24–6), who eventually lost control of the game with a 9–0 run in the Finals. Gave. Two minutes later the Tar Heels cut the deficit to 10 points, 57–55. Much of that production came at the foul line, where the Cavaliers made 9 of 10 as UNC finally ran out of gas.

RJ Davis scored 24 points to lead the Tar Heels (20-13), who shot just 35.8%, to lose for the second time in three meetings with the Cavaliers. UNC also continued a season-long trend of struggling to hit outside shots, making 8 of 27 3-point attempts.

Tar Heels big man Armando Bacot (four points, three rebounds) sat out the final 10-plus minutes because of an ankle injury in Wednesday’s second-round win against Boston College.

It’s never looked like the team that made a magical run to last year’s national championship game, then finished the year with four starts to earn the No. 1 ranking in the Associated Press preseason poll. Now the Tar Heels are poised to become the first AP preseason No. 1 seed to miss the tournament since NC State in 1974–75.

“It’s not a great feeling,” said second-year head coach Hubert Davis. “Not the expectations we had coming into the year. It was definitely frustrating and frustrating, but the one thing I can say about this group is we fight until the end.”

Added Davis: “I’m saddened and disappointed [the players] that we are in this situation. Very sad for them.”

UNC enters Thursday’s quarterfinals with a 1-8 record in Quadrant 1 games, which is top of the NCAA tournament resume, with the lone win coming at home against the Cavaliers on Feb. 25 — and that’s on the verge of falling into Quadrant 2. Hovering on the line. territory.

Davis, when asked if he had a “pitch” on why his team should receive a tournament bid, said he was not thinking about it.

“Our record is our record,” Davis said. “And I know that, I think regardless of our record, I think we’ve shown all year that we can compete and play and beat anybody in the country. Conference program, I know for whatever reason the ACC is underestimated as one of the elite, if not the elite, conferences in college basketball. … But at the end of the day, we had opportunities and eight or We lost 13 for nine, we were up in the second half and so we had chances.”

ESPN Stats & Info and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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