CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. -- ESPN College Gameday's first-ever appearance last season here didn't go as planned as Virginia was knocked off by Duke, spoiling the Cavaliers' perfect record before their home crowd.
On Saturday, College Gameday returned again for arguably the most anticipated matchup in the Atlantic Coast Conference with a much different result.
Virginia's hopes for a third straight ACC title were kept alive as the third-ranked Cavaliers knocked off No. 7 North Carolina 79-74 in front of a sold-out crowd at John Paul Jones Arena.
The Cavaliers led by as many as 11 points in the second half before sealing the game with free throws late.
"I just want to congratulate Virginia," North Carolina coach Roy Williams said. "We couldn't quite get it over the hump. We have a couple bad possessions on offense and then they score a couple times on offense."
Virginia (22-6, 11-5 ACC) finished 18 of 21 from the line.
Cavaliers senior guard Malcolm Brogdon continued his impressive play with a game-high 26 points and five rebounds. He even added his patented pregame yawn just before tip.
"He's been terrific. I think he might have even done is traditional yawn right before tipoff," Virginia coach Tony Bennett said. "Mostly in conference play and really all of his career, but I must say he's been good. He's more efficient than ever and he made the tough plays. He was real steady in the game -- and a game that was important."
Brogdon won the dual of the ACC's two top contenders for ACC Player of the Year as his competitor, Brice Johnson, finished with 12 points.
North Carolina (23-6, 12-4) never led in the second half despite shooting 49 percent from the field for the game.
Tar Heels guard Joel Berry scored a team-high 21 points but was held to seven in the second half.
Berry led four Tar Heels players in double figures. Guard Marcus Paige continued to struggle with his shooting despite scoring 13 points. He was 4 of 13 from the field
"I thought the biggest factor of the game to me was they played with a high level of intensity," Williams said. "I think Virginia was the actors and we were the reactors. They're really good."
Virginia shot 44 percent from the floor for the game and also boasted four players scoring in double digits. Forward Anthony Gill contributed 15 points and nine rebounds.
"I was really excited to see the balance," Bennett said. "Against a team as good as Carolina, you can only control what you can control and for us it wasn't going to be easy. But I thought we fought."
The solid team effort on the offensive end came just a game after the Cavaliers managed to put only one player in double figures on Monday at Miami in a loss.
North Carolina entered the game averaging above 40 points per game in the paint but managed 28 against Virginia.
NOTES: Virginia ranks third nationally in scoring defense (59.7 points per game. ... Saturday's game wrapped up a stretch for North Carolina in which they played three ranked teams in four games. ... North Carolina's Brice Johnson and Virginia's Malcolm Brogdon are the two front-runners for ACC Player of the Year. ... Virginia has won 19 straight games at John Paul Jones Arena. ... Brogdon's 17 first-half points matched his season average for a full game. ... Virginia's 34-1 record in home ACC games in the past four season set a conference record.