Joe Harris

Road struggles continue for No. 19 NC State, Wolfpack fall to Joe Harris and Virginia

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In the battle between the tortoise and the hare, this one went to the tortoise.

The Virginia Cavaliers, by focusing on a slow half-court offense, outlasted No. 19 NC State late to secure a big 58-55 win at John Paul Jones Arena in Charlottesville, Va.

NC State had four straight opportunities in the final three minutes to tie or take the lead and could not capitalize, culminating in a three-point heave from guard Scott Wood in the waning seconds that was off the mark to give Virginia the win.

Virginia guard Joe Harris led all scorers with 22 points on 7-of-15 shooting from the floor, able to single-handedly outplay an NC State backcourt that struggled Tuesday. Akil Mitchell anchored Virginia’s interior attack with a double-double of 14 points and 12 rebounds.

NC State guard Lorenzo Brown played just ten minutes before he was forced out by an ankle injury.

Without Brown on the floor for much of the game, the NC State transition attack was not running at the same pace that it typically does when the Wolfpack flourish. Virginia effectively slowed down NC State’s transition game and forced the Wolfpack to play more of a half-court set.

Backup point guard Tyler Lewis saw by far more minutes Tuesday than he had seen at any other point during conference play. With Brown sitting out, he had three points and two assists, but perhaps most importantly did not turn the ball over.

Without Brown on the perimeter, the focus for NC State was once again on the interior with Richard Howell and C.J. Leslie. The two had 12 points and 20 points, respectively, and were the keys to the Wolfpack remaining in the game down the stretch.

The loss continues a trend for NC State. The Wolfpack have been consistently unable to close out games on the road against quality opponents in the ACC.

On Jan. 16, NC State lost to Maryland by one, 51-50, after shooting 31 percent from the field. Less than one week later, the same Wolfpack team blew a 16-point lead to lose, 86-84, to Wake Forest.

Virginia moves into second place in the ACC with a conference record of 5-2.

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_

UNLV’s Stephen Zimmerman out with a knee injury

UNLV forward Stephen Zimmerman Jr. shoots against San Diego State during an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Jan. 30, 2016, in Las Vegas. (L.E. Baskow/Las Vegas Sun via AP)
(L.E. Baskow/Las Vegas Sun via AP)
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The injury Stephen Zimmerman suffered on Saturday will keep the star UNLV freshman out for at least a week, a source told NBC Sports.

The injury is not thought to be serious, however. Zimmerman may be kept out for longer as a precaution, but that’s a result of the Runnin’ Rebels being in a situation where the rest of their regular season is relatively meaningless.

They’re not getting an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament regardless of how they finish out league play. With back-up center Ben Carter out with a torn ACL, it’s more important to make sure that Zimmerman, who is averaging 10.6 points and 9.1 boards this season, is totally healthy for the Mountain West tournament.

That tournament, mind you, will be played at UNLV’s Thomas & Mack Center.

So the Runnin’ Rebels, regardless of how poor they’ve played this season, will always have a chance to land an automatic bid.

Anyway, the more interesting aspect of this story is how Zimmerman injured the knee. It was a completely avoidable play that came after the whistle, but I’m not sure it was what you would call a “dirty play”. You tell me:

VIDEO: Buddy Hield is ‘all money’ on game-winning three vs. No. 24 Texas

Oklahoma guard Buddy Hield (24) takes a shot over Oklahoma State forward Chris Oliver during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Stillwater, Okla., Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2016. (AP Photo/Brody Schmidt)
(AP Photo/Brody Schmidt)
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With a little more than three minutes left on Monday night, No. 24 Texas held a 57-51 lead on No. 3 Oklahoma in Norman as Jordan Woodard struggled again and Buddy Hield failed to find the rhythm that he had throughout the first three months of the season.

At that point in the game, Hield was 4-for-14 from the floor with 15 points and four turnovers. He had just missed a pair of wide-open threes

“I couldn’t make a shot,” Hield said after the game. But that changed down the stretch. First, Hield finally got a three to drop. On the next possession, he got all the way to the rim and scored. On the following two possessions, he was fouled on a drive to the rim and hit four free throws. And after missing a pull-up jumper, Hield did this:

“I told coach I wanted the ball,” Hield said, “I saw Lammert coming to bite, so I pulled up.”

“It’s all money.”

Hield is already the favorite to win National Player of the Year, and this performance is only going to help his cause further. Think about it like this: Buddy was not good on Monday night, at least according to his (admittedly lofty) standards. But he still finished with 27 points and shook off a cold shooting night just in time to take over down the stretch.

Now think about this: Hield’s head coach has enough confidence in him to hand him the keys in the final minutes despite the fact that he’s struggling and on a team that has two other players that Lon Kruger trusts on game-winning possessions. Think about it. When Oklahoma beat West Virginia at the buzzer, it was Jordan Woodard that the play was drawn up for. When they beat LSU, it was Isaiah Cousins that got the rock on the final possession while Hield was used as a decoy. .

Want to talk about coaching luxuries?

Kruger has three guards that can shoot, penetrate and score, and penetrate and kick, and one of them is the National Player of the Year that doesn’t mind being used as a decoy.