North Carolina State had to figure out how to turn its season around. Now it’s Virginia’s chance to show that it can pivot after a rough stretch.
The 15th-ranked Cavaliers have lost their grip atop the Atlantic Coast Conference with consecutive losses for the first time this season. The opportunity to get back on track comes Wednesday night when NC State visits Charlottesville, Va.
“All right, you hit some adversity, what are we going to learn and grow, are we going to grow from it and be ready to play,” Virginia coach Tony Bennett said.
Virginia (15-5, 11-3 ACC) lost to then-No. 16 Florida State and surging Duke last week.
Meanwhile, the Wolfpack (10-9, 6-8) have won four of their past eight games. The last three victories in that stretch have come on the road, including last week at Pittsburgh and Wake Forest.
“You don’t have to go through the long story about the struggles that we’ve had, but when you’re playing three freshmen for long, extended minutes, it’s going to take those guys a little time to get better in our system and understand what we want,” NC State coach Kevin Keatts said. “When you look back two or three games ago, we were talking about 18, 19 and 20 turnovers.”
The Wolfpack had it down to 11 turnovers in Saturday’s 80-62 romp at Wake Forest.
When Virginia won 64-57 on Feb. 3 at NC State, the Wolfpack were just a week removed from losing team scoring leader Devon Daniels to a season-ending knee injury. NC State has more regularly tapped into a variety of offensive sources since then.
“Our focus has now become that we are more of an inside-out team,” Keatts said. “But while we go inside-out, I think our young guys are starting to get better on the perimeter.”
Duke topped Virginia 66-65 on Saturday night, with the Cavaliers failing to score in the final three minutes of the game.
Bennett had his concerns earlier in the game. Despite shooting 60 percent in thefirst half, the Cavaliers trailed 39-36 at halftime.
“I thought defensively, I don’t know, at times, we have to be so good in the important areas,” Bennett said. “That has to be the moment that ball tips. We were back more in the second half in transition. The first half, there just were some breakdowns that are going to happen, but those in tight games you can’t afford, and I think it was pretty easy for them to score on us in the first half.”
Redshirt senior Jay Huff poured in 20 points and matched career high with 12 rebounds at Duke.
Virginia guard Tomas Woldetensae missed the Duke game because of coronavirus-related contact tracing. He’ll miss Wednesday night’s game as well, Bennett said.
NC State seemed to fall off the radar with a blowout loss at home to Duke on Feb. 13 before making a turnaround last week.
“It showed me that our guys had a sense of pride,” Keatts said. “And they’ve obviously come back and fought since that point.”
This week’s NC State-Virginia game is a makeup game from a postponement of a Jan. 20 game when NC State had coronavirus issues.
–Field Level Media