The Hoos did it again, slowing down a high-flying NC State team to squeeze out a 58-55 victory. Virginia quieted the Wolfpack's heralded transition offense, while finding just enough scoring of its own to notch its first victory of the season over a ranked team. Virginia is now all alone in second place in the ACC at 5-2 (15-5 overall), while NC State fell to 5-3 in the ACC and 16-5 on the year.
UVA overcame a deficit that stretched as far as 10 points and was 7 at halftime. Jontel Evans had the potential to slice into the lead when he was fouled shooting from mid-court at the halftime buzzer, but missed all three of his free-throws. However, Evans came to the line at the game's most important moment, shooting one-and-one up 56-55 with 26 seconds to play, with a chance to redeem himself. The fourth-year sunk both to extend the UVA lead to 3 points, later calling the shots the biggest free throws of his life. Fittingly, the Hoos won the game on defense, forcing NC State to settle for a desperation three-point attempt from Scott Wood that was heavily contested by Paul Jesperson.
Virginia took its first lead at 38-37 on a Tobey jumper more than 27 minutes into the game. From there, the teams stayed within 5 points throughout, as a raucous JPJ crowd urged the Hoos to victory. Akil Mitchell scored the deciding points on a deep jumper with just under 4 minutes to play; that put the Hoos up 56-54, after which the Wolfpack would score just one more point.
NC State came off an emotional victory against UNC in which it scored 20 fast break points in the first half, but they couldn't do the same against UVA's pack line defense. Virginia's defense is designed to prevent transition points; sure enough, it stopped the Wolfpack from running and kept them from converting on their rare opportunities to do so. Though UVA didn't have its most balanced offensive game, its defense, ranked 13th in the nation in adjusted efficiency, held down NC State's #10 ranked offense. NC State was held under 1 PPP for just the third time this year.
Joe Harris steadied the Hoos, scoring 22 points on 7 of 15 shooting, but shooters not named "Joe Harris" went 1 of 8 from downtown (where the team shot 25% overall). It was the interior presence of Akil Mitchell and Mike Tobey, who scored 14 and 13 points, respectively, that provided a lift against an oft-maligned NC State defense. Not only has Tobey's soft touch around the basket continued to impress, but he has improved his shot selection as well, making him a more efficient player.
The Mitchell-Tobey combo also held its own defensively against Richard Howell and an ill but effective CJ Leslie. Each had double-doubles, and they combined for 36 of NC State's 55 points; however, effective man defense by Akil and timely double-teams also forced 10 turnovers down low, 7 from Leslie.
After Harris, Mitchell, and Tobey, no Hoo had more than 4 points. Evans hit those two late free throws and another layup, Nolte had a three-pointer, and Anderson scored on a circus-shot layup. That was it.
Virginia got a hand when NC State point guard Lorenzo Brown left the game in the first half after injuring his ankle. His counterpart, Evans, finished an efficient game with 7 assists and just 1 turnover. He was spelled for just 5 minutes by a combination of a Doug Browman and Teven Jones. After not seeing the court in the previous two games, Jones played 4 minutes, turning the ball over once and missing the only shot he took.
Darion Atkins, recovering from a shin injury, was cleared to play but didn't look quite right in limited minutes.
After an emotional win in front of a national audience, the Hoos have earned 4 full days off. Next, they'll travel to Atlanta to take on Georgia Tech on Super Bowl Sunday (don't worry, the game's at 3 PM). The Yellow Jackets fell to 1-6 in ACC play with a 3-point loss to Clemson earlier tonight. Despite their poor record, GT's defense is ranked 17th nationally in efficiency terms; the catch is that their offense is by far the worst in the ACC (and 233rd in the nation). Last season, UVA held Georgia Tech to just 38 points on the road; the Hoos will attempt to repeat that dominant performance to pick up their 5th straight victory.
In the meantime, the team has a few minutes to enjoy their big win:
JOHN PAUL JONES ARENA WAS ROCKINNNNNNN!!!! That's a way to be the #sixman leggooooo!!!!— Justin Anderson (@HooNamedSimba23) January 30, 2013
Great win tonight .... On to the next #wahoowa— Jontel Evans (@bubevans1) January 30, 2013
Big thanks to all the fans tonight!You were great!! #loveya— Joe Harris (@joeharrisuva) January 30, 2013
Love Sosa playin in the locker room ... You know what that means... We got that Win!— Paul Jesperson (@pjuva2) January 30, 2013