ACC Basketball

Virginia’s D Delivers Against Wolfpack

ETHAN HYMAN — News Observer

The Virginia Cavaliers defense without Justin Anderson…no problem. The Virginia Cavaliers offense without Justin Anderson…um, still a work in progress.

In what could never be described as a thing of beautiful, the Cavaliers avoided the upset in Raleigh, beating NC State, 51-47.

Once again relying on Tony Bennett’s relentless defense, the Cavaliers gave up nothing near the rim. The Wolfpack kept taking the ball inside throughout the contest, only t0 walk away with no points. Their starting big boys, Kyle Washington and Abdul-Malik Abu, scored just 12 points, making just two baskets in the paint (one Washington basket was a three), as Virginia’s defense continued to collapse inside. It certainly helped that Mark Gottfried’s squad was no threat from deep, hitting just 3-17 shots from downtown.

Yet, the Wolfpack still went toe-to-toe with the ACC’s best team. The fact is, for most of the game and particularly in the first half, someone forgot to tell Virginia that they were allowed to actually enter the paint, instead shooting and missing jumper after jumper after jumper. It wasn’t even that they were relying on threes (they went 2-11 from deep), they settled for a ton of deep two-point jumpers, never really willing to challenge State’s bigs in the lane (I’m sure the Wolfpack’s nine blocks had something to do with it).

However, the game was decided in the end because one team was well coached and one wasn’t.

At about the 10-minute mark in the second half, with the game tied, the Cavaliers, led by Malcolm Brogdon, finally removed the “do not enter” tape surrounding the paint and began to attack the basket. They would produce four lay ups and two dunks, plus plenty of free throws down the stretch to build a small lead they never would surrender.

On the flip side, as the Cavaliers build that small four-point lead, NC State began to go into panic mode. Four times in the final four minutes the Wolfpack ran down the court and heaved up a challenged three like they were down three with five seconds to go. Not once did Gottfried call a timeout and actually call a play that could get a good look in their offense or at the very least settle his team down. Only the last three by Trevor Lacey went in, but by then it was already a game of free throws for Virginia.

Despite foul trouble, Malcolm Brogdon seem to imbrace his new role as go-t0 guy, scoring 15, despite failing to hit a three. Mike Tobey finished with 11, but he needed 10 shots to get it done. The second ranked Cavaliers improve to 22-1 on the season, maintaining a two-game lead over Notre Dame for the top spot in the ACC. For now, it should be smooth sailing for Virginia. They won’t face a top-50 team again until March 7 (at Louisville).

The Wolfpack were led by Lacey, who scored 14, as Ralston Turner was held to just four points. As a team, NC State only attempted seven free throws all night, forcing only six turnovers. They have now dropped five of six, their only win coming from that last-second, game-winning shot over Georgia Tech. At 14-11 overall, 5-7 in the ACC, I think their NCAA Tournament hopes are unofficially dashed.

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