From the start, Richard Howell was pulling down rebounds in traffic, diving on the floor and even throwing loose balls off defenders to save his team from losing possessions.
Howell had 11 points and a career-high 18 rebounds in North Carolina State's 61-60 loss to No. 19 Virginia on Saturday night, though it was exactly the kind of performance coach Mark Gottfried wanted from the junior two days after he struggled in a loss to rival North Carolina.
"Richard was great," Gottfried said. "He had 18 rebounds and so many of his rebounds were tough, traffic, effort rebounds. The rest of our guys did too, but I thought his effort was terrific."
Howell managed eight points and one rebound while playing just 16 minutes before fouling out in the 74-55 loss to the Tar Heels. He fouled out for the third straight game Saturday, though not before he had frustrated the Cavaliers with an all-out effort. Half of his 18 rebounds came on the offensive glass, surpassing the Cavaliers' team total of five.
Howell fouled out with 1:47 left.
"Man, he played a great game," Virginia's Mike Scott said. "He was all over us on the offensive glass. We did a terrible job of boxing him out."
Scott scored 18 points to lead the Cavaliers (17-3, 4-2 Atlantic Coast Conference), while Joe Harris and Sammy Zeglinski each added 12. Virginia shot 60 percent in the first half to take the lead and then turned away a second-half rally for the road win.
Virginia led by 10 with about 6 1/2 minutes left before the Wolfpack (15-7, 4-3) pushed back. Scott Wood shook off a game's worth of shooting struggles to bury a 3-pointer off a loose rebound to cut the deficit to 61-60 with 46.3 seconds to go, then Zeglinski missed a step-back jumper with the shot clock winding down to give the ball back to the Wolfpack with a chance to win.
But after a timeout with 7.8 seconds left, Lorenzo Brown managed a desperate 3-pointer that missed everything, ending the game.
C.J. Leslie scored 17 points to lead the Wolfpack. N.C. State shot just 40 percent for the game, but got back in it in the second half by holding the Cavaliers to 4-for-18 shooting (22 percent) in the final 20 minutes.
N.C. State was coming off a 19-point loss at North Carolina, though the Wolfpack trailed by 31 in the second half of an ugly defeat that threatened to drain some of the buzz that had built during the team's 4-1 ACC start. This seemed a perfect opportunity to chase away the sting from that loss, against a ranked league opponent in front of a loud home crowd.
Instead, the Cavaliers earned their fourth straight win against the Wolfpack.
The Cavaliers were playing their third game without starting center Assane Sene, who is expected to be out six weeks due to a right ankle injury sustained at Georgia Tech on Jan. 19. They lost at home to Virginia Tech in the first, then rolled past Boston College on Thursday night and continued that with a hot-shooting first half against the Wolfpack.
After shooting 51 percent against the Eagles, Virginia went 15 for 25 from the field and led by nine before taking a 38-31 lead into halftime. N.C. State rallied to within a point midway through the second half but never could push ahead.
The Cavaliers finally got some breathing room with an 8-0 run. Harris knocked down a 3-pointer during the spurt, then ended it with a pair of free throws that made it 55-45 with 6:31 left, though the Wolfpack made one more push that ultimately fell a shot short.