Virginia slows down N.C. State, pulls out victory

The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. -- Joe Harris scored 22 points, and Virginia beat No. 19 North Carolina State 58-55 Tuesday night at the John Paul Jones Arena.
Virginia (15-5, 5-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) improved to 12-1 at home and moved into second place in the league. The Cavaliers have also now won four in a row.
N.C. State (16-5, 5-3 ACC) was forced to play Virginia's style. The Wolfpack averages 79.8 points per game and like to run compared to Virginia's halfcourt style, which has limited opponents to 51.1 points per game.
"That was our chance to play against them," Virginia coach Tony Bennett said. "If you thought we could have ran up and down and out-possessioned them, I think it would have been hard for us."
The Wolfpack are now 0-4 in true road games, including dropping their first three road conference games.
"When we've been on the road, it seems like it turns into a rugby match," Gottfried said. "We've got to be better at handling that."
Akil Mitchell hit a jumper from the left elbow to put Virginia ahead 56-54 with 3:54 left, a lead the Cavaliers would not relinquish.
After N.C. State forward C.J. Leslie made one free throw to cut the lead to one with 3:20 left, neither team scored until Virginia point guard Jontel Evans hit two foul shots with 26.1 seconds left to push the lead to 58-55.
Evans was 0 for 3 from the line to that point, missing three straight free throws with 1.2 seconds left in the first half after being fouled on a three-point attempt, but he bounced back late.
"Good for him," Bennett said. "For him to step up and make those free throws, that was significant."
Wolfpack guard Scott Wood's 3-point attempt in the last five seconds came up short, and Virginia escaped with the win.
Harris' 22 points tied a season high. He was 7 for 15 from the field and 3 for 8 from 3-point range. Mitchell added 14 points and 12 rebounds for his seventh double-double of the season.
Harris had seven points during a 2:28 stretch in the second half, capping it off with a layup to put Virginia ahead 54-51 with 4:40 left. Harris was being guarded by N.C. State freshman T.J. Warren, a matchup Bennett said he liked for his leading scorer.
"I know that he was starting to get really tired, especially as the game wore on," Harris said of Warren. "We made a point of really trying to move him offensively. From watching the tape, they had a tendency to break down further into the shot clock." Wood drilled a deep 3-pointer from the left wing on N.C. State's next possession to tie the game at 54 with 4:20 to play, but it was the last field goal the Wolfpack would make.
Leslie was not at full strength for N.C. State, as he played with an illness. He did not start the game, but he finished with a team-high 20 points and 14 rebounds in 30 minutes.
"He didn't practice yesterday, didn't come to shoot-around," Gottfried said. "I wasn't sure how much energy he'd have, and I thought he did a good job fighting through it. He gave us everything he could."
Richard Howell had 12 points and 11 rebounds for the Wolfpack.
Virginia took its first lead of the game when Mike Tobey hit a jumper with 12:26 to go to make the score 38-37. That capped a 14-6 run to start the second half for the Cavaliers.
Tobey came off the bench to give Virginia a nice spark, contributing 13 points on 6-of-10 shooting and seven rebounds.
"Mike's continuing to improve," Bennett said. "He's certainly a threat on the blocks, and I love it that he had seven rebounds."
The Wolfpack played the final three quarters of the game without starting point guard Lorenzo Brown, who left the game in the first half after injuring his left ankle with 10:29 to play.
"I also am very aware that they lost perhaps the best guard in our league, and that was to our benefit," Bennett said. "But we still had to make plays and we persevered."
Gottfried said after the game that Brown's status for the game this weekend with Miami would be determined in the next "couple days."
N.C. State led 31-24 at halftime and never trailed in the opening period.
The Wolfpack went on a 12-2 run late in the first half to take a 29-18 lead with 1:42 to play, their largest lead of the half.
NOTES: This was the 140th meeting between the schools dating back to the 1912-13 season. N.C. State leads the all-time series 81-59. ... The Wolfpack are the only ACC team that has never won in the John Paul Jones Arena, losing all five games in the building.

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