Hall’s 25 lead No. 3 Virginia past NC State 68-51
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) — Virginia’s lead was still 11, but North Carolina State was trying to rally and a sense of unease was growing at John Paul Jones Arena. There were eight minutes to play, and the Wolfpack were on an 11-2 run.
For Devon Hall, that meant time to do something.
He got the ball on the right baseline, drove hard and laid it in. Thirty seconds later, after a turnover, he scored on another drive, was fouled and converted the three-point play, allowing the third-ranked Cavaliers to feel a little better, up 52-36, in a 68-51 victory Sunday night.
“I thought he righted the ship,” coach Tony Bennett said.
A fifth-year senior and one of three captains. Hall saw it more as doing his job.
“I’ve been here for five years and so that’s the time where a leader steps up,” he said after scoring a career-best 25 points.
Kyle Guy added 17 points and Isaiah Wilkins had 10 for the Cavaliers (16-1, 5-0 Atlantic Coast Conference), who were unranked to start the season. Virginia also has won 11 straight regular-season meetings against the Wolfpack.
Hall finished 7 for 9 from the field, including 4 of 5 on 3-pointers, in topping his previous high of 20 points.
“Devon, he certainly answered when it got to those points,” Bennett said. “He played a heck of a game.”
Torin Dorn scored 16 points to lead N.C. State (12-6, 2-3), which arrived with a 3-0 record against ranked teams. The Wolfpack has beaten the No. 2 team twice — Arizona on Nov. 22 and Duke on Jan. 6 — and was coming off a 78-77 victory against No. 19 Clemson, but they had a difficult time getting much going against the nation’s top defense.
N.C. State scoring leader Allerik Freeman (15.2 points per game) did not score in 29 minutes, missing all five of his shots from the field.
The Wolfpack allowed Virginia to convert 8 of 14 3-point shots, including 5 of 9 in the second half.
“I thought we did a tremendous job early in the game of running them off the line. Not so much in the second half,” first-year Wolfpack coach Kevin Keatts said. The Cavaliers, who attempted 27 3s in their last game against Syracuse, were 3 for 5 in the first 20 minutes.
Virginia led 30-20 at the break and quickly built its margin to 37-20 in the opening minutes after halftime. The lead grew as high as 21.
Virginia center Jack Salt is an imposing physical presence well known for setting sturdy screens. He did it twice against the Wolfpack.
In the second half, his midcourt screen on Markell Johnson drew roars from the crowd when shown on replay. A few minutes later, Salt set another one and, although he appeared stationary, was whistled for a foul. It’s the same way in the Cavaliers’ practices,” Bennett said.
“You hear some spines cracking and he realigns them with some back screens and he’ll screen you hard, but I think our guys’ heads are on a swivel,” Bennett said, noting that the junior from New Zealand generally stays within the rules. “When you’re playing defense and Jack’s on offense, you’re aware of where he is and trying to beat the screens because he’ll lay you out. He’ll get you.”
N.C. State: The Wolfpack does a good job of forcing turnovers, ranking second behind Virginia in turnover margin with a plus 4.18 (Virginia’s is plus 5.19). The Cavaliers matched their season-high with 14 turnovers, but N.C. State committed 15 and was outscored off those mistakes 22-17.
Virginia: Virginia’s defensive focus increasingly appears to frustrate teams with its consistency, eventually leading to forced shots late in the shot clock. The Wolfpack had several of those, as well as a few 30-second violations and finished 23 for 56 (41.1 percent) against the nation’s top field goal percentage defense.
The Wolfpack returns home to face Wake Forest on Thursday night.
Virginia goes on the road for just the second time in its last nine games as it plays at Georgia Tech on Thursday.