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No. 14 men’s basketball bounces back against NC State, winning 64-57

Flipping the script from Saturday’s loss, the Cavaliers found late offense to escape with a win

<p>Virginia Coach Tony Bennett talks to his players during the first half of the game Wednesday night.</p>

Virginia Coach Tony Bennett talks to his players during the first half of the game Wednesday night.

No. 14 Virginia men’s basketball took down NC State 64-57 Wednesday night in Raleigh, N.C. The Wolfpack (7-7, 3-6 ACC) kept it close throughout, but the Cavaliers (12-3, 8-1 ACC) found a late offensive spark to surge to a win.

After rolling through the first seven games of ACC play, Virginia suffered a second-half meltdown at the hands of in-state rival Virginia Tech, losing 65-51 for the teams first loss since being obliterated by No. 1 Gonzaga. However, the Cavaliers remained atop the ACC standings and looked to bounce back against an NC State squad that had lost five of its last six contests. 

The two teams opened the game trading baskets, and neither side built more than a three-point advantage by the first media timeout, with Virginia leading 14-13. Following the timeout, a quick scoring burst from senior forward Sam Hauser opened up a six-point lead for the Cavaliers — giving him 11 of Virginia’s 19 points.

After a quick foul sent Hauser to the bench, NC State responded and closed the gap to 19-18 on the strength of five points from junior forward Jericole Hellems. Hellems extended his run to nine points, as the Wolfpack shut the Cavaliers out on the scoreboard for over six minutes of game action.

Senior forward Jay Huff ended the drought with a deep three-pointer to tie the score at 22, and Virginia closed the half on a 9-2 run, heading into the break with a 28-24 lead. In the first half, all five starters entered the scoring column for the Cavaliers with Hauser leading the way at 11 points. 

As a team, Virginia shot 52.6 percent while NC State only hit 34.5 percent of their shots. However, a 17-12 rebounding edge, including eight offensive rebounds, kept the Wolfpack within striking distance.

The Cavaliers opened the second half strong, growing the lead to nine points on an and-one layup from freshman guard Reece Beekman. NC State did not go away, as the team clawed to within four points by the half’s under-12 media timeout. 

The Wolfpack slowly inched its way closer, and with 6:53 remaining, a breakaway dunk from senior forward D.J. Funderburk gave NC State a 44-43 advantage — its first lead of the half. For many Virginia fans, the game script appeared eerily similar to Saturday’s loss against Virginia Tech, as the Cavaliers went cold from the floor, not scoring for nearly six minutes.

In fact, Virginia went 8:15 without scoring a field goal, but the Cavaliers got just enough of a late offensive spark to retake control of the game. Virginia rebuilt their lead to as much as nine on a thunderous dunk from junior guard Trey Murphy, but the Wolfpack refused to go down without a fight, as it closed the gap to four points on a three-pointer from junior guard Thomas Allen with 1:10 remaining.

However, NC State would only add one more point, and the Cavaliers closed out the game, winning 64-57.

“I think we learned from [the Virginia Tech] game,” Hauser said. “We were kind of in the same position up eight or nine points with about 10 minutes to go. They had their run, and instead of folding and giving in, we responded with our own run.”

Virginia’s starters contributed all of the team’s 64 points with Hauser and Murphy leading the way with 18 points each. Huff chipped in 12 points and six rebounds, and junior guard Kihei Clark led the team with six assists.

Notably, the Cavaliers attempted 22 free throws, making 20 of them. Despite leading the ACC in free throw percentage, Virginia is last in the conference in free throws attempted, so the added aggressiveness in attacking the rim was certainly a welcome sign for the Cavaliers.

“We tried to open the floor and attack,” Coach Tony Bennett said. “Sometimes the lane was a touch more open so you had to make some hard drives and the right decisions off of it.”

After the Louisville men’s basketball program announced a pause in team activities, Virginia received news that Pittsburgh would instead be travelling to Charlottesville Saturday to face the Cavaliers. Tip-off is set for 4 p.m. and the game will be televised on ESPN.

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