UVA basketball guts one out, wins at NC State

chris graham uva basketballWhen you play like crap, and #3 UVA played like crap Tuesday night, you’re supposed to lose, and it really shouldn’t be close.

Michigan State, for example. Other night, Sparty, to me the third-best team in the country, behind Virginia and Duke, played like crap at Purdue, trailed by 18 at the half, and lost by 10, and it wasn’t that close.

Gonzaga, another team in the running for a #1 seed, got its doors blown off at UNC.

Which, UNC, not quite in the running for a one seed, but pretty damn good: smacked down at home a couple of weeks ago by Louisville, beat down at Michigan early on.

And, Michigan: 16 turnovers in a 10-point loss at Wisconsin.

Virginia had 16 turnovers Tuesday night in Raleigh, against an NC State team that needed a win.

The Pack had already lost a marquee game at home to Carolina, and was sitting at 4-3 in the ACC, with this schedule facing them the next two weeks: Virginia Tech at home, at UNC, at Pitt, Syracuse at home, at Duke.

A win, and you get some momentum heading into that tough stretch.

A loss, and, life gets even tougher, for a team that started 13-1.

Credit to the Pack: their guards put ball pressure on the UVA guards, and the ‘Hoos couldn’t seem to get into their offense with any consistency.

Those 16 turnovers came on 67 possessions, just short of one turnover every four trips down the floor.

State had a 14-2 advantage in fast-break points. You read that right: 14 fast-break points. Virginia can go months without giving up 14 fast-break points.

The Virginia kids looked … tired. Not in a dragging themselves up and down the court way, but, it seemed like there was a lack of focus, and it seemed a virus that everybody wearing the orange and blue had.

Sloppy passes. Dumb fouls. Not boxing out on rebounds, giving State extra possessions.

The whole setup was for an NC State win, and it shouldn’t have been close.

The only reason it was even close: defense.

It’s cliché to talk about UVA playing good defense, because that’s what UVA does.

Defense was the only reason the ‘Hoos were even in this one.

As inefficient as the offense was, the defense traveled.

State shot 34.4 percent, and jacked up way too many threes – 26 of them, on its 64 shots, and only made seven.

In the OT, after a Kyle Guy three put Virginia up 64-61, the D got stops on the next two trips from the Pack, and forced State to take precious seconds off the clock before getting a jumper from Braxton Beverly with eight seconds left to cut it to one.

It was … just enough.

Again, credit to NC State, which gave Virginia the big shot you would expect from a Top 25 team at home, played the tough ball-pressure D, rallied from 14 down in the second half to force OT.

But, Virginia, playing, if you had to grade it out, a D+ game, won, on the road, at #23.

In a game that, by all rights, the ‘Hoos should have lost, and it shouldn’t have been close.

You’ll need to win a game like this to get to a Final Four.

The offense isn’t always purring. The loose balls sometimes bounce disproportionately to the other guys.

You want to hang a banner, you need to fight through that.

Column by Chris Graham


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