The Virginia Cavaliers used a late push to take down the upset-minded NC State Wolfpack 61-51. The Pack gave the Hoos all they could handle at home, taking advantage ofhot three-point shooting and some sloppy UVA offense, but couldn't keep up down the stretch. With the win, UVA improves to 14-0 on the season and 2-0 in ACC play, while NCSU drops to 11-5 (2-1).
In last season's matchup in Raleigh, Virginia took a 28-9 lead before the Wolfpack knew what hit them. There was no repeat this time, as it was NC State who took the early 16-8 lead. The Hoos looked to turn the tide, using an 18-2 run to grab an 8 point lead with 4 minute remaining in the first half, but NC State's key late push sent the teams into halftime separated by just a point, with UVA on top.
The teams once again went back and forth in the second period, with the Wolfpack grabbing a 42-41 lead on a three-pointer with 9 minutes left. But Virginia's mini-Cavalanche, a 16-3 stretch, gave the team the lead for good.
The run included three big put-backs on missed shots, one by Mike Tobey and two by Anthony Gill. The Hoos struggled on the boards in the first half, but finished the game grabbing 80% of NC State misses, while the Pack cleaned just 64% of UVA's misses. Marial Shayok also shined, grabbing a steal and getting aggressively to the rim for a layup.
(The bad news: Shayok was "rewarded" with this blow from Justin Anderson):
@WhiteysWorld365 here's Justin chest-bumping Shayok to the floor https://t.co/F68n7v1Vlp— Brian Jordan (@jordanbrianl) January 8, 2015
Anderson had reason to celebrate; he led the team with 16 points and 9 rebounds. He continued his strong three-point shooting, where he was 4 for 9, but made just 1 of 5 twos. Malcolm Brogdon had 14 points on 6-16 shooting, Anthony Gill and Mike Tobey had 12 and 11 points, respectively.
The offense's main problem was shot selection. The team got sped up and ended up attempting too many threes, especially considering UVA's advantage in the post. 54% of the team's first half shot attempts were from long range, but Bennett seemed to refocus the team during halftime (30% of the teams attempts on the game were 3s). The increase inside focus didn't immediately pay dividends, but it did when the Hoos pulled away down the stretch. UVA also committed some sloppy turnovers, coughing the ball up on 16% of possessions. That's not too many in a vacuum, but NC State is one of the worst teams in the nation at creating TOs, and most of UVA's were unforced.
During Virginia's first 11 games of the season, the Hoos usually dominated from start to finish. But the past three, against Davidson, Miami, and NC State, have all been dicey. Similar to the Davidson game, NCSU's three-point shooting kept them in the game; the Pack shot 43% from behind the arc, but made 58% during the first half. Ralston Turner had 14 points and was 4-7 on 3s, but was held scoreless in the second half. Trevor Lacy was 3-6 from behind the arc, including a heave from close to half-court as the shot clock expired.
Overall, UVA scored 1.07 points per possession and allowed .84 PPP. That snaps a rough streak of three consecutive games allowing more than a point per possession, and qualifies for a pretty strong defensive performance against a Wolfpack offense ranked 33rd in the nation by KenPom that had a good shooting night. The Hoos just need to pull together one of the complete games they were playing earlier this year.
Once again, Wahoo fans could repeat a familiar refrain: A win is a win. And that's all that the team has done this season so far. Next up is perhaps Virginia's toughest test to date, as the Hoos head to South Bend Saturday evening to take on a Notre Dame team coming off a big road win over North Carolina.