With 22 seconds left and behind by three, Virginia shot a pair of three-point attempts that fell off the mark, allowing N.C. State to escape with a 65-62 victory marred by sloppy plays on both sides.
Virginia turned over the ball 20 times (just four of which were Wolfpack steals) and saw its best two players--point guard Donald Hand and forward Chris Williams--foul out before the final minute, leaving the already young Cavaliers even more devoid of leadership. N.C. State (11-2, 2-1 ACC) overcame a horrible 10-of-27 free throw shooting performance to win the critical early Atlantic Coast Conference victory.
"Usually, no matter what else you do, you lose" when you miss that many free throws, N.C. State Coach Herb Sendek said. "We're shooting a lot of them in practice, I promise you. Tonight, at least until midnight, the only stat I'm looking at is the final score."
After climbing back from a 54-45 deficit with 7 minutes 36 seconds left, the Cavaliers tied the game at 61 on a three-pointer by Williams at the 2:25 mark. On the next possession, N.C. State had difficulty penetrating until forward Kenny Inge drove past Virginia power forward Travis Watson, playing with four fouls, for an emphatic slam dunk. The teams then had trouble at the free throw line--the Wolfpack's Archie Miller and Marshall Williams, as well as the Cavaliers' Watson, all missed--until Virginia held the ball with 22.7 seconds left, behind 65-62.
From the top of the key, forward Adam Hall missed a three-pointer, which was knocked out of bounds. Junior shooting guard Keith Friel took the inbounds, pump-faked and then drew contact but no foul with Wolfpack guard Justin Gainey, but his shot fell short and into the hands of Wolfpack forward Damien Wilkins.
Only one of the five Cavaliers--Hall, a sophomore--on the floor for that final stretch played for Virginia last season. Three were freshmen--guard Majestic Mapp, forwards Mason and Watson--and Friel sat out last year after transferring from Notre Dame.
"In a sense, we felt not necessarily foreign to each other, but not as natural as it should be," Friel said. "All the combinations we draw from, it's a tough situation."
Virginia (10-5, 1-2) missed an opportunity to improve its conference record to above .500 for the first time since the 1996-97 season. Its next game, a Saturday trip to ACC cellar-dweller Clemson, which fell to 0-3 in the conference with a loss to Florida State tonight and 6-9 overall, gives the team a chance to regroup. Gillen criticized his veterans--citing Williams and Hand--for their lack of on-court leadership and worried his team was not ready to win conference games on the road.
"We shouldn't have gotten in that position," Gillen said. "We're not ready yet [to win on the road]. Not that we can't. But we have a long way to go."