Brandon Costner got the shot he wanted. But on the road for the first time this year, NC State couldn't make those shots fall.
Down by three with seven seconds left, Costner came off a screen at the top of the key and had an open 3-point look. But the game-tying attempt clanked off the rim, and the hosting Virginia Cavaliers pulled down the rebound. Sean Singletary hit two free throws with five seconds remaining to ice Virginia's 67-62 win over the Wolfpack on Sunday afternoon in the brand-new John Paul Jones Arena.
"We got some pretty good looks but unlike them we didn't knock ours down," sophomore center Ben McCauley said following the game.
The biggest shot for the Cavaliers (5-1, 1-0 ACC) came after State (5-1, 0-1) took a two-point lead with two minutes left in the game. J.R. Reynolds, who was 0-for-6 from the field in the first half, nailed a 3-pointer from the corner to put Virginia on top for good.
"They made big plays," head coach Sidney Lowe said. "Reynolds' [3-pointer] was probably the biggest one – that really did it for us."
State, playing its earliest conference game since the 1967-68 season and held Virginia to just 38 percent shooting from the field, but was done in by its performance on the boards. The Cavaliers hauled down 18 offensive rebounds and had 15 second-chance points as the team took advantage of a tired and undermanned Wolfpack squad in the second half.
"They did a nice job of crashing and pushing us under the glass and getting the rebound," Lowe said. "You have to give them a lot of credit."
Junior Gavin Grant agreed that rebounding was the biggest problem for the Pack down the stretch.
"That's where I think we lost the game in the second half – offensive rebounding," Grant said. "They missed a lot of shots, and we just let them get the ball back."
Costner led all scorers with 17 points and seven rebounds, while three other Pack players scored in double figures. Grant had 15, McCauley 12 and Courtney Fells added 11 for the game. Grant also recorded a game-high eight assists, starting his first game at point guard for State. The Pack played without senior point guard Engin Atsur, who pulled a hamstring during last Monday's Michigan game and will be out for at least another week. Atsur snapped a streak of 100 consecutive games played for State.
"Nothing is going to stop us from playing hard and trying to get the win," McCauley said. "Obviously we'd love to have Engin out there, but we are going to have to play without him. We'll be fine."
State and the Cavaliers traded baskets for much of the first half, with the score tied six different times. Both team's struggled offensively, shooting under 36 percent. State was ice cold from beyond the 3-point arc, hitting just 2-of-14 for the half. Virginia took a one-point lead into the half, 27-26.
For the second game in a row, State came out with a strong start to the second half, outscoring the Cavaliers 8-1 in the first four minutes to build a quick six-point advantage, its largest lead of the game. Virginia responded with a 6-0 run of its own to tie the game up with 14 minutes left.
"We knew they were going to make a run," Lowe said. "We did a great job of holding it down and putting ourselves in a position to win. That's what you ask for – you get on the road and you try to put yourself in a position to win."
The Pack got in position to win when McCauley took an alley-oop pass from Grant and converted the lay-in with two minutes left on the clock to gives the Pack a two-point lead. On the next possession, Reynolds nailed his 3 from the corner and State never recovered.
"We feel bad that we lost – there are no moral victories here," Grant said. "But we're kind of proud of the way we played on the road with a young team, starting three sophomores, missing our only senior. I think a bounce here or there and we could be the ones celebrating right now."
Next up for NC State (5-1, 0-1) is a nonconference contest against West Virginia (5-1) on December 6th in Charleston, West Virginia.