Nine months ago, when asked what attracted him to the Virginia position, head coach Tony Bennett kept it simple. "It was the opportunity to do something special. It’s coaching in the ACC." Today he picked up his first ACC win, on the road against NC State, in a game opener that felt like he had been doing this for decades.
It was a slow and sloppy start for both teams. Virginia led for most of the first half, but it was always a close game that had either a tie or a lead change at almost every turn. While Virginia was up by as much as 6 in the first half, they found themselves down by 4 heading into the locker room.
The second half didn't look much better for the 'Hoos. The Cavaliers took two minutes to tie the game at 30 coming out of the locker room, but it was then that something sparked for the Wolfpack, as they went on an 8-0 run over three and a half minutes to blow it open. NC State was up by as much as 10 -- a lead that could have been perilously larger had they shot better than 16-26 (61.5%) from the foul line.
But Bennett would not let his team just bow out of his first ACC opener. Down by 9 with just under 12 minutes to go, Virginia staged 9-1 run comeback to pull wtihin 1 with 7:37 to go. The entire arena could tell that this was Virginia's game to win. When NC State began fouling, Virginia remained calm, cool and collected, and made 19 of 20 (95%) free throws on the day.
Virginia had 7 turnovers at halftime, but would only give up three more during the second half. Sylven Landesberg tied a season high 23 points, and continues to have scored double figured in every game this season. Mike Scott (14) and Sammy Zeglinski (10) also helpd lead the charge for the Cavaliers.
Miss the game? Check out Raycom Sports' Top 5 plays for Virginia:
This marks Virginia's third ACC conference opening win in the past four years. Unfortunately, it also marks the same third win over the past fifteen years. It is Virginia's second time this season rallying from down 10 points in the second half for a victory (last against Cleveland State). Sammy Zeglinski, the 7th best 3-point percentage shooter in the country going into this game, went 2-2 from beyond the arc.
Virginia returns to action Wednesday against Georgia Tech at home. Tipoff is at 7:00 p.m.