No. 18 men’s basketball visits NC State looking to end losing skid
Struggling Cavaliers are in desperate need of offensive firepower, ACC win
After four-consecutive losses, the No. 18 Virginia men’s basketball team needs a win against NC State Saturday.
The Cavaliers (18-9, 8-7 ACC) have dropped five of their last six ACC games, including three losses to unranked teams and a crushing blowout against the conference’s top team — No. 8 North Carolina.
In its most recent loss, Virginia fell to unranked Miami at home in overtime, 54-48.
Both the Hurricanes and the Cavaliers struggled offensively in the first half, with each team shooting under 35 percent from the field. The Cavaliers went on a 12-0 run in the second half, but then found themselves scoreless for almost six minutes after.
With the game tied at the end of regulation, Miami senior guard Davon Reed banked in a three. However, the replay showed he released the ball after the buzzer sounded, sending the game to overtime.
In the extra minutes, the two teams exchanged leads until Miami freshman guard Bruce Brown nailed a three with 23.8 seconds left in overtime to secure the win for the Hurricanes.
Junior guard Devon Hall led Virginia with 15 points, while junior forward Isaiah Wilkins put up a 10 point, 10 rebound double-double — including two free throws with four seconds left during regulation to send the game to overtime. Junior guard Marial Shayok added eight points, and redshirt freshman forward Mamadi Diakite scored five in a career-high 25 minutes of play.
Senior guard London Perrantes — the Cavaliers’ leading scorer — was two of 15 from the floor, which included five misses from behind the arc. Despite being the only player on Virginia’s roster to average double digits per game, Perrantes has recently struggled to score.
In Virginia’s last four losses, he has shot 16 of 58 for a 27.6 field goal percentage, and he has only made five of 28 attempts from three.
“I wish I knew what was getting me out of rhythm so I could fix it,” Perrantes said after the Miami game. “I’m in a pretty deep slump right now and I need to figure out a way to get over it.”
Virginia’s losing streak has exposed the team’s offensive shortcomings. Against Miami, the Cavaliers shot 31.4 percent from the floor, and they sunk only 13 of 20 attempts from the free throw line — including three front ends of second half one-and-ones. Against the Tar Heels in the game prior, Virginia struggled even more — shooting 27.8 percent from the field and 10 percent (two-for-20) from the three point line.
“We struggled to score, we’re not shooting well and [Perrantes] obviously didn’t have a strong game,” Bennett said after the Miami game. “There are a lot of things we’re trying to overcome, and we need everybody playing at a fairly solid level for us to be successful in this conference.”
The Cavaliers’ four-game losing streak is its first since the 2009-2010 season — coach Tony Bennett’s first with the team. Virginia’s recent losses have plummeted the team into a three-way tie for No. 7 in the ACC. With only three games left in ACC play, the Cavaliers have little room to move up in the standings. ESPN currently predicts Virginia will get no higher than a five seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Virginia’s next game against the less competitive NC State is a must-win — not only for ACC and NCAA tournament rankings, but also for the team’s morale. The Wolfpack (15-14, 4-12 ACC) is one of the weakest teams in the conference.
NC State pulled out a 71-69 win against Georgia Tech Tuesday. In the win, senior guard Terry Henderson led the team with 21 points and five rebounds, while freshman guard Dennis Smith Jr. put up 18 points.
Prior to this most recent win, NC State lost seven-consecutive games. Its most notable win of the season came at Duke in late January, when the Wolfpack upset the Blue Devils on the road by two. Smith Jr. had 32 points and six assists in the win, followed by 19 points and nine rebounds from junior forward Abdul-Malik Abu.
Smith Jr. leads NC State in scoring with 18.9 points per game on 46.7 percent shooting. He also leads the ACC in assists with 6.5 per game. Abu is an effective force for the Wolfpack on both ends of the court, adding 11.5 points and seven rebounds per game.
Additionally, the team has other players averaging double digits — Henderson with 14 points per game and freshman guard Maverick Rowan with 12.3 points per game.
However, in the face of a poor season, NC State recently announced that head coach Mark Gottfried will not return next year after six years with the team.
Saturday’s game will be the first meeting between Virginia and NC State this season. Last year, the Cavaliers blew out the Wolfpack out by twenty points.
The game tips off at noon Saturday at PNC Arena in Raleigh, N.C.