Raleigh, NC (SportsNetwork.com) - The second-ranked Virginia Cavaliers hit the road on Wednesday, for an ACC showdown with the NC State Wolfpack at PNC Arena.
Tony Bennett's Cavaliers are a stellar 21-1 on the year, with the lone loss coming against fourth-ranked Duke (69-63) on Jan. 31. Virginia has put some distance between that solitary defeat with back-to-back wins over powerhouses North Carolina (75-64) and most recently, Louisville (52-47).
Mark Gottfried's Wolfpack have struggled this season in terms of consistency. NC State enters this contest with a 14-10 overall mark. The team is under .500 in league play at 5-6 and has lost four of its last five games, including last week's 88-84 setback at Wake Forest.
NC State holds an 82-61 lead in the all-time series, but Virginia has won seven straight regular-season meetings. The Cavaliers are seeking the regular- season sweep of the Wolfpack after earning a 61-51 victory in Charlottesville back on Jan. 7.
Louisville found out first-hand just how stingy Virginia is defensively, as the Cavs held the Cardinals to a mere 13 first half points, in what turned out to be a five-point win. Overall, Virginia held Louisville to a .370 shooting effort, while forcing 11 turnovers compared to just two for the Cavaliers. Guard Malcolm Brogdon led the way in the victory with 15 points. Forward Anthony Gill finished with 10. However, the win came at a cost, as guard Justin Anderson fractured a finger on his left hand in the first half that required surgery. He will miss the next 4-to-6 weeks recovering.
There is simply no way the Cavaliers will be the same without Anderson and his 13.4 ppg. Luckily for them, their success isn't based on their offensive exploits, but rather, some of the best defensive play in the nation. Virginia currently leads the country in scoring defense, limiting foes to just 50.7 ppg, while holding them to just .355 shooting (third nationally). The team has also dominated on the boards, boasting of a +8.9 rebounding margin (fifth nationally). Brogdon remains the team's top scoring threat at 13.7 ppg. He and Gill (11.0 ppg) will need to elevate their games at the offensive end to assuage the loss of Anderson.
The Wolfpack are a solid offensive squad, averaging 72.5 ppg on an efficient .450 shooting. The team has had to fill the void left by the departure of last year's ACC Player of the Year in T.J. Warren and has found an adequate replacement in Alabama transfer Trevor Lacy. The 6-foot-3 junior guard helps in many areas. He ranks sixth in the league in scoring at 16.7 ppg, while averaging 4.7 rpg and 3.5 apg. Fellow guards Ralston Turner and Anthony Barber provide scoring depth with 13.1 and 11.4 ppg, respectively.
The hometown Demon Deacons jumped all over the Wolfpack in the first half, shooting .655 from the floor and taking a 51-30 lead into halftime. NC State turned the tables in the second half, converting .500 over the final 20 minutes, but fell just short in the end. The loss spoiled a terrific performance by Barber, who went 11-of-20 from the floor, netting a game-high 28 points. Lacy poured in 19 points, while Turner finished with 12.