NC State learned Wednesday night both that it is capable of playing as well as any team in the ACC, and that nothing is going to be easy, especially against a team like Virginia. It was a harrowing fight down the stretch, but the group that was better the majority of the game—and that was definitely State—carried the day.
You can’t underscore a fast start in Charlottesville, and NC State began this one like a dream, smothering UVA defensively while knocking down a high percentage offensively. The Pack carried a double-digit lead for a good chunk of the first half, though UVA fought back—of course UVA was going to fight back.
After the Wahoos trimmed a 24-10 State lead to 25-21, NC State scored the next four with a couple of good finishes from DJ Funderburk and Manny Bates; State’s lead at the break was 29-23.
Virginia’s struggles shooting the ball evaporated early in the second half, and Jericole Hellems twice lost Sam Hauser in the corner, which resulted in UVA buckets.
Virginia eventually took a two-point lead with 14:30 left, but given the run of play it never felt like this was a dramatic turning point in the game. State scored the next eight points to reclaim control and would never again relinquish the lead.
Against good teams, it’s going to take both ends, and State got an outstanding effort at both. The early hot shooting sustained the offense and created some room for error, while the defense didn’t do anything to help UVA while it struggled from the field.
The Pack’s defensive effort was noticeable, with the good possessions far outweighing the bad. Kihei Clark was rendered mostly useless at the point, and as State realized this, it became an easier problem to defend the Cavs, since Clark was trying to dish to the perimeter more often than not.
UVA finished just 7-25 from three, and there’s always going to be some good fortune involved in a number like that, but State contested a lot of those shots, and that matters. Sam Hauser only woke up in the second half; Jay Huff was just 1-6 from three.
From start to finish the consistent theme was NC State’s freshmen. Cam Hayes hit back-to-back threes early in the first half to get the Pack established. Shakeel Moore came off the bench and made a near-immediate impact, with several highlight plays. That’s becoming the norm for him. Dereon Seabron had a couple solid plays offensively but was a critical part of the defensive performance tonight.
This is a really good win, so let’s go have some ice cream.