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_