ATLANTA — N.C. State’s quest for an NCAA invitation took another giant step forward Friday afternoon when the Wolfpack defeated Virginia 67-64 in the quarterfinals of the 59th ACC Tournament.
According to many of the nation’s more notable NCAA bracket projectors, Mark Gottfried’s team came into this weekend needing at least two victories to get into the field of 68. A third victory would seal the deal.
But senior C.J. Williams said the Wolfpack is intent on winning four times and taking home the ACC championship. To do so, NCSU must defeat top-seed North Carolina on Saturday afternoon.
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N.C. State improved to 22-11 overall, while the Wahoos dropped to 22-9.
Here are both teams’ grades for their performances Friday:
N.C. State offense: This was one of the more impressive offensive performances of the season for the Wolfpack, especially considering it was against one of the top defensive teams in the nation. State shot 54 percent from the field, though just 33.3 percent from beyond the arc. The Pack assisted on 18 of 27 made baskets, and C.J. Leslie had one of his better performances in two seasons. He was 9-for-11 from the field for 19 points (14 rebounds, three assists), and was as aware as he has been at any previous time. Grade: A+.
Virginia offense: Mike Scott took some questionable shots inside the final 10 minutes, and for the day was just 9-for-23 from the field. But he had to shoot, it’s just that he was no longer getting good looks near the baseline, where he’s seemingly automatic. UVa shot just 43.4 percent from the floor, including a paltry 16.7 percent (2-12) from 3-point range. Joe Harris (18 points on 4-9 shooting from the field) was excellent. Grade: C+.
N.C. State defense: State hasn’t been the best or most consistent team on that end of the floor, but the Pack had some really nice stretches and forced the wrong man to take some shots, especially late in the game when the players doubled away from Jontel Evans, who missed an open 3-point attempt. State registered eight steals and blocked two shots, but Leslie and company altered several more. Grade: B.
Virginia defense: Tony Bennett couldn’t have been pleased with his team. They allowed too much stuff near the rim, open shots from the perimeter, and didn’t always get back on defense as fast as is necessary when facing the Wolfpack. That State sank 54 percent of its field goal attempts and turned over the ball just 11 times compared to registering 18 assists suggests this was one of UVa’s worst defensive efforts of the season. Grade: F.
N.C. State intangibles: The mindset of this team and its focus is off the charts right now. State came to Atlanta on a mission to make a statement, and it’s in position to do just that, having won the two games many pundits felt were required to get into the NCAA Tournament. But the manner State played and swagged Friday, it may have more winning to do. Grade: A.
Virginia intangibles: In fairness to the Cavaliers, they are dealing with injuries, but that should not have affected the defense to where it played so poorly. UVa kept fighting, as Scott and Harris were excellent leaders Friday. But a lack of punch and a disjointed stretch were too costly. Grade: C+.