Mike Scott had 23 points and 10 rebounds and Joe Harris finished with 18 points for Virginia. The Wolfpack will play No. 1 seed North Carolina in Saturday's first semifinal.
N.C. State (21-11) came to Atlanta listed as a possible bubble team for the NCAA tournament before beating Boston College on the opening day of the ACC tournament.
The Cavaliers knew this was a huge game, celebrating as the buzzer sounded as though they had just punched their NCAA tournament ticket. Virginia (22-9), the No. 4 seed, had a first-round bye but was denied its first spot in the ACC semifinals since 1995, extending the league's longest drought.
N.C. State's Richard Howell, who had 10 points, missed two free throws with 1:11 remaining, costing the Wolfpack a chance to extend a 63-60 lead. Scott missed a short jumper for Virginia with 40 seconds remaining.
Lorenzo Brown, who had 15 points, made one of two free throws to push the lead to four points. Harris made two free throws for Virginia with 25 seconds remaining. Following a quick foul, Scott Wood made only one of two free throws for N.C. State, leaving the lead at three points. Harris then missed a three-pointer for Virginia and fouled Brown, who made both free throws with 7.2 seconds remaining for a 67-62 lead.
Wood sank five 3-pointers while scoring 22 points in Thursday's 78-57 win over Boston College. He was 0-for-4 on 3-point attempts against Virginia before ending the drought with a 3-pointer with less than 1 second remaining in the first half. Wood, fouled on the play by Sammy Zeglinski, sank the free throw to complete the four-point play and give the Wolfpack a 36-33 halftime lead.
Virginia led 9-3 before the Wolfpack took off on a 14-0 run. The Cavaliers recovered to briefly take the lead late in the half.