Cavaliers whack Pack, 76-45
Virginia stayed perfect in the Atlantic Coast Conference by polishing off a day for the Tobacco Road schools that was decidedly imperfect.
Joe Harris scored 16 points to help the Cavaliers rout North Carolina State 76-45 on Saturday night.
Mike Tobey also had 16 points and Malcolm Brogdon added 13 for Virginia (12-4, 3-0).
The Cavaliers kept pace with No. 2 Syracuse and Pittsburgh as the league’s only teams unbeaten in league play while also polishing off an epically bad day for North Carolina’s four ACC schools.
Virginia never trailed, opened the game with a 21-4 run and wasn’t tested in cruising to its third straight win.
“They were off, and that helped,” Virginia coach Tony Bennett said. “They couldn’t buy a bucket. (Coach Mark Gottfried) has done a good job with this team. He really has. They just had one of those games and we had one of those games, and I think you saw it.”
Desmond Lee and Ralston Turner each had 10 points for the Wolfpack (11-5, 1-2).
They didn’t get closer than 22 in the second half and finished with a season-low-by-far point total in their worst loss at PNC Arena, which opened in 1999.
“The first half, I don’t know that they could play better, and I don’t think that we could play any worse,” Gottfried said. “Perfect storm. We were pitiful in the first half and, offensively, basically the whole game.
“They just clicked on every cylinder, and we played very, very poorly,” he added. “Tough day.”
For everyone else on Tobacco Road, too.
Each of the state’s four ACC schools lost Saturday — and by double figures, no less.
According to STATS, the four haven’t lost on the same day since at least before the 1996-97 season — the oldest records available to the statistics company.
N.C. State joined Wake Forest and No. 16 Duke in an eight-way tie for next-to-last in the ACC at 1-2, ahead of only North Carolina (0-3).
T.J. Warren, the ACC’s leading scorer who averages 23 points, finished with four on 1-of-9 shooting. His only field goal came nearly 15 minutes into the game — when N.C. State was already down by 20.
The Wolfpack’s previous scoring low was 57 points two months ago at Cincinnati. They had a season-high-tying 16 turnovers and shot a season-worst 28.9 percent against one of the nation’s best defenses.
“It was very frustrating, to the point where everybody was just looking at each other like, ‘What’s going on? What’s happening?’” Lee said. “It was real frustrating to me because you didn’t know what to do. Everything we tried, it just wasn’t working.”
Virginia entered ranked third nationally in scoring defense, giving up an average of 55.9 points, and ninth in Division I in field goal percentage defense (37.4 percent).
“It was collectively being in gaps, being sound, being in the right spots, having good ball pressure and being physical,” Harris said. “We wanted to force them to take some tough shots, and some of their best players had off nights.”
In each of the past two years, this wound up being a pivotal game for settling the seeds for the ACC tournament and sorting out the first-round byes.
N.C. State and Virginia tied for fourth in the final standings in both 2012 and ‘13, and the Cavaliers claimed the tiebreakers both times by winning the head-to-head matchup — although the Wolfpack did win both meetings in the tournament.
This one was all Virginia.
The Cavaliers dominated from the tip, opening with that huge run that included a burst of 15 straight points. They scored on 15 of their first 17 possessions and shot 60 percent in the half — their best half of the season.
Virginia went up by double figures to stay on Tobey’s tip-in fewer than 5 minutes in, pushed its lead into the 20s on his free throw with 9:02 left and led 48-23 on Akil Mitchell’s steal and dipsy-doo dunk in the open court with about 1:15 left before the break.
“At halftime, I challenged them,” Bennett said. “I said, ‘Hey, is this a flash in the pan or is this the real deal? So let’s see what we’re about.’ And I thought they did a good job.”