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The Big Preview: Hoos look to end skid against Wolfpack at JPJ

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Hoos host NC State with just three games left in the regular season.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: FEB 06 NC State at Boston College Photo by Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Virginia basketball is on a losing streak, something we have not seen often over the past few years. In fact, since the famous Joe Harris/Tony Bennett meeting on New Year’s Eve in 2013, Virginia has had just five losing streaks (including this one) and only two of those were more than two games. Despite the two-game losing streak, the Hoos are just a half game behind Florida State (Virginia is two games up in the win column and one game behind in the loss column to FSU).

NC State, on the other hand, has won two in a row and both were on the road. But overall, they’re just 6-8 in the conference and 10-9 overall. These two teams played in early February in Raleigh, with Virginia pulling away for a 64-57 win.

NC State wants to play fast, wants to pressure, generate steals and get easy buckets. In the first matchup, they actually forced 11 turnovers, but were not really able to turn those into easy buckets.

This was one of just two really easy buckets the Wolfpack got in transaction. This is a lazy pass from Morsell and he just doesn’t expect Shaquille Moore to get into the passing lane. Hopefully, we don’t see that this time out.

Jericole Hellems leads NC State in scoring at over 13 points per game, and he had 23 points in the last matchup. While Hellems was hot, nobody else on the Wolfpack broke double-digits. That seemed to be the game plan for the Hoos, at least in the half-court. Rather than double the Pack’s main scorer, they let him go one-on-one against Hauser and kept everybody else in check. For the most part, Hellems had to work for his buckets, although he did get a few open looks in transition.

This is a strong move from Hellems, but it’s certainly not an easy bucket. Hellems had a few isolation plays where he was able to use his body to get into Hauser and create space. Not much more Hauser can do. Hellems is good.

This one was not too difficult for Hellems. He’s wide open. Seems like some confusion about who is guarding Hellems. The lineup here is Clark, Morsell, Woldetensae, Murphy and Caffaro, not a common one used by Bennett this season.

NC State is a good three point shooting team, making 36% overall. Against Virginia, Hellems was 3-for-6 and the rest of the team was 1-for-8. Here is that one make:

That’s a tough shot over the 6’9 Trey Murphy. If they make a bunch of those, they win. But nobody makes a bunch of those.

That last game was largely the Sam Hauser/Trey Murphy show as they combined for 36 points on 19 shots. Jay Huff scored just 12 points on 5-for-12 shooting, but was the difference late.

This was, maybe, the biggest bucket of the game. The Pack had erased a nine-point Virginia lead and actually led on two separate occasions. This bucket extended Virginia’s lead back to three possessions, giving them some breathing room.

If that wasn’t the biggest bucket, then this one was:

Huff shot just 1-for-6 from outside, but the threat of his outside shot still caused some problems for the Pack. This was the second of two identical plays Virginia completed in the final four minutes. NC State freshman Cam Hayes isn’t even looking at his man. First Hauser draws his attention with a cut, and then he’s watching Huff at the top of the key. We know Huff can knock down that trey, he can drive from there as we saw above and now we know he can hit that backdoor cut as well.

Last time, on the road, Virginia didn’t shoot the ball particularly well, but made their FTs (20-for-22) and played enough defense to come away with the win. In ACC play, the Hoos are knocking down 45% from downtown at home, versus 38% at home. If they knock down the outside shot at that rate, it’s going to be awfully difficult for the Wolfpack to hang with them.

The game is set to tip-off at 6:30pm and will be broadcast on the ACC Network. Virginia is favored by 11 in the latest odds.