NC State was able to jump out front early behind the strong play of senior Jordan Collins and junior Tony Bethel. Collins and Bethel each knocked down key 3-pointers in the game's opening minutes, and after a layup by Collins the Wolfpack led 14-4 seven minutes into the half.
Virginia, playing its last game at University Hall and with seniors Elton Brown and Devin Smith starting their final home games on "Senior Night," would not fold early, largely due to a surprising effort from reserve sophomore center Jason Cain. Cain entered the game averaging just 4.2 points and 1.2 rebounds per game in 12.1 minutes of action, but that didn't stop him from finishing with 13 points and 8 rebounds against the Wolfpack. He would score six points in his first two minutes on the floor to help cut NC State's lead to 14-13.
The Wolfpack maintained the lead throughout the half with the Cavaliers cutting it down to two in the final minute. However, Ilian Evtimov knocked down a 3-pointer at the halftime buzzer to give the Wolfpack a 36-31 lead at the break.
Bethel paced the Wolfpack with 12 points in the half as NC State shot 41.9% from the field but more importantly 46.2% from beyond the arc, hitting 6-of-13 attempts. Virginia connected on 42% of their shots but hit just 3-of-8 3-point tries.
The Wolfpack, especially Jordan Collins, came out hot in the second half. Collins scored seven points in the first five minutes, but would head to the bench with his fourth foul seconds before the first media timeout. NC State had extended the lead to 10 points, but over the next three minutes saw two other starters, Evtimov and Engin Atsur, pick up their fourth fouls prior to the second media timeout.
With freshmen Gavin Grant, Andrew Brackman, and Cedric Simmons playing major minutes for the Wolfpack, each responded, especially Grant. The 6'7 guard scored seven points while also recording three assists and two rebounds. Playing for Atsur, Grant hit three big shots and was able to give NC State a much-needed contribution off the bench.
Perhaps NC State's biggest field goal came in the game's final minutes. Leading 68-60, Julius Hodge found Andrew Brackman open under the basket for a reverse layup as the shot clock expired, giving NC State a double-digit lead with just four minutes to play. The bucket proved critical as Virginia was never able to cut severely into the lead and NC State hit free throws down the stretch to secure the 82-72 victory.
Hodge played a magnificent overall game, recording 17 points, eight assists and five rebounds to lead four NC State players in double figures. Collins finished with 16 while Bethel added 16 points, six rebounds, and four steals. Ilian Evtimov chipped in 12 points and six rebounds as well.
The Wolfpack shot 55% in the second half and 47.1% for the game, while also knocking down 26-of-38 free throw attempts. NC State never trailed throughout the contest.
Virginia was led by spectacular freshman Sean Singletary. The explosive point guard who hit the game-winner for the Cavs in the first meeting had 17 points, but was held in check for the most part by Bethel and Atsur. He was limited to 5-of-11 shooting from the field and recorded just two assists. Jason Cain and Devin Smith added 13 points each while Gary Forbes chipped in 12.
The victory moved NC State into a five-way tie for fourth place in the Atlantic Coast Conference with Georgia Tech, Maryland, Miami, and Virginia Tech.
Sunday night's game against Wake Forest is huge for both teams. A victory for NC State would likely lock up an NCAA at-large bid and the #4 seed in the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament while a victory for the Deacons coupled with a North Carolina loss to Duke or Florida State would give Wake Forest the ACC regular season championship.