In fact, State had the lead after Trevor Lacey beat the shot clock with a deep three-pointer with 9:20 remaining.
The Cavaliers went on 10-0 run over a four-minute stretch that left the Pack wondering what could have been in a 61-51 loss at John Paul Jones Arena.
Sure, NC State can take several positives away from competing with the Cavaliers, but a big win was certainly left on the table. During the final UVA run, the Wolfpack was one-for-seven from the field and committed four turnovers, two coming on consecutive offensive fouls on BeeJay Anya for setting illegal screens.
"We are disappointed," NC State head coach Mark Gottfried said after the game. "With about eight minutes to go we took the lead. Then we had a drought there."
With No. 2 Duke coming to Raleigh on Sunday, Gottfried and the Wolfpack will have to find a balance between maintaining confidence that the team can compete and win against the better teams in the conference, while also looking objectively at what went wrong in a game NC State had a chance to win.
The Pack scored 11 straight points after Justin Anderson opened the game with a three-pointer and led by eight with a little more than six minutes into the contest.
Virginia responded with a 13-0 run of its own and had a nine-point advantage before two quick threes from Ralston Turner sliced the deficit to three.
Cat Barber was inexplicably fouled by Anthony Gill on a three-point attempt with less than a second remaining in the first half, and the sophomore made two of three free throws to bring the Wolfpack within one at intermission.
Barber’s two made free throws would be the only ones NC State would manage to convert during the game. The Pack finished two-of-nine from the charity stripe and had scoreless stretches of at least five minutes in both halves.
It is a dichotomy that Gottfried acknowledged.
"We came on the road against the third-ranked team in the country and with eight minutes to go we had a one-point lead," he said. "It is just at the point forward, how do we get better? How do we correct what happened? That’s what we have got to look at and address."
The ACC is not for the meek. NC State showed what it can be at various times, but Virginia countered with a response that gave the Wolfpack a glimpse of what separates good teams from champions.
NC State will have an immediate opportunity to prove it can grow from its performance when the second-ranked Blue Devils visit PNC Arena. The balance between good and bad will continue as the Pack prepares for its Triangle neighbors.
"I think there are a lot of positive things to build on," Gottfried said. "Obviously, we know we’ve got a tough one coming up soon, and we’ve got to get ready for the next one real fast."
Such is life in the ACC. When one chance slips away, there is usually another one right around the corner. NC State can either grow into a competitive team or shrink into an also-ran.
The Wolfpack has its fate in its own hands.