Charlottesville, VA – Joe Harris scored a game-high 22 points and Akil Mitchell recorded a double-double with 14 points and 12 rebounds as Virginia took down No. 19 N.C. State, 58-55, in a battle of the ACC's the top scoring defense (51.1) and offense (79.8).
After Virginia led by one point with 3:20 remaining, the game stayed deadlocked until Jontel Evans netted two critical free throws which expanded the lead to three points and eventually made the difference for the Cavaliers (15-5, 5-2 ACC), who have won four straight.
C.J. Leslie collected 20 points and 14 rebounds for the Wolfpack (16-5, 5-3), who fell to 0-5 all-time when playing at John Paul Jones Arena, remaining the only team in the conference which has not recorded a victory there. Richard Howell also recorded a double-double with 12 points and 11 boards in defeat.
Leslie and Mitchell provided some fireworks as the first half came to a close, with Leslie grabbing Howell's missed layup for a putback slam and on the following end, Mitchell capitalized on an open lane for his own athletic dunk and foul. He completed the three-point play to make it 31-24 at halftime.
The Wolfpack played most of the contest without guard Lorenzo Brown, who left midway through the first half with an apparent ankle injury. He did not return.
The second half started poorly for the Wolfpack as the team turned the ball over on their first three possessions. Virginia took advantage as Mike Tobey gave the home team its first lead of the night on a tough hook shot, 38-37, with 12 1/2 remaining.
With just under six minutes left, Joe Harris increased Virginia's lead to 52-49 with three free throws after he was fouled on a 3-point attempt.
Scott Wood's trey with 4:22 remaining tied the game up yet again, 54-54. Mitchell's corner jumper gave the Cavaliers a 56-54 lead before Leslie hit 1- of-2 free throws with 3:20 remaining. However, the teams traded possessions back and forth until under one minute remained in the contest.
That was until Evans sunk both shots from the charity stripe with 26 seconds to go, giving Virginia a 58-55 edge.
N.C. State had one last chance with 5.3 seconds left as Wood came off a screen to take a deep fadeaway 3-pointer for the tie, but his shot missed the hoop entirely and Virginia hung on for the upset.
"I'm really proud," Virginia coach Tony Bennett said. "Certainly, Joe, he was tough. Akil was. Mike Tobey was. Again, they stepped up when they needed to. I also am very aware that they lost perhaps the best guard in the league in (Lorenzo) Brown, and that was to our benefit. We still had to make plays, and we persevered. I'm very thankful for the win."
Leslie's layup just over ten minutes into the contest increased the visitors lead to 17-7, but the Cavaliers responded with a 9-0 surge -- including five points by Harris -- to get within one point and grab some momentum back with the home crowd.
N.C. State, however, distanced itself with a 12-2 run, which made it 29-18 with under two minutes before the break.
"Obviously, losing Lorenzo is a tough hurdle for our team to get over," N.C. State coach Mark Gottfried said. "But I thought they battled through that very well. We did a lot of things well. We didn't execute nearly as well as we should have late in the game and we also had some opportunities where we had the ball right around the rim. We just couldn't seem to score it. That was tough."
Since upsetting then-No. 1 Duke by eight points on Jan. 12, N.C. State has lost three of its last five games ... The Cavaliers improved to 13-1 this season at home, including 12 straight victories ... Virginia came into the game allowing a mere 51.1 points per game to rank second in the nation in scoring defense ... The Wolfpack shot 40.7 percent from the floor, compared to 37.7 percent for the Cavaliers ... Tobey finished with 13 points and seven rebounds ... Wood finished with nine points, but was just 3-of-8 from behind the arc.