After Thursday night's win over Duke, a reporter asked Sidney Lowe if he would wear his red coat for the NC State's second round match-up.
"Yeah you'll probably see it," Lowe said.
Maybe now its time to start believing in the power of the red jacket. The red-clad Lowe and his Wolfpack team pulled off its second upset in two nights, knocking out No. 2 seed Virginia on Friday night in the second round of the ACC Tournament in Tampa, 79-71.
"We have nothing to lose, we can compete with anybody in the ACC," freshman Brandon Costner said. "We have a lot of things still to prove this year – we're just coming out to win the tournament."
The Pack (17-14) trailed by 14 at the half, but used a 21-4 run midway through the second half to take the lead from the Cavaliers (20-10). State shot 74 percent in final 20 minutes on its way to scoring 53 second-half points, pulling a 33 percent shooting night at halftime into a 53 percent shooting night by the final buzzer.
"We certainly played a lot better in the second half," Lowe said. "We made a few adjustments defensively, but I guess more importantly offensively. We had several guys that just picked it up and played well for us."
Costner led the way again for the Wolfpack, scoring 22 points on 6-of-13 shooting and grabbing six rebounds. Gavin Grant added 20 points, Engin Atsur had 10 and Ben McCauley added 12 points, six rebounds and six assists. Former walk-on Bryan Neiman added six points, hitting a pair of 3-pointers at key moments in the second half.
"He was the difference in the ballgame," Lowe said. "We had guys that played well for us but at the time at which it happened, Bryan Neiman made the biggest plays of the night."
The Wolfpack kept the Virginia offense in check by containing the Cavaliers' dynamic guard duo. First-team All-ACC selection Sean Singletary had 16 points at halftime, but scored just seven points from that point. Second-team All-ACC selection J.R. Reynolds had 11 points but shot just 3-of-14 from the field.
"[Reynolds] is a heck of a player, we just wanted to just try to make it tough for him," Lowe said. "He can really make tough shots and we just wanted to always be near him and try to take him out of it."
State will move on to play the winner of the final Friday game between No. 12 seed Wake Forest and No. 3 seed Virginia Tech. The Pack played each team twice in the regular season, winning all four games.
"It's like today, this is a team that we lost two twice," Lowe said. "Now we'll play a team that we've beaten twice – its tough to get that third one."
At the start of the game the Wolfpack had trouble putting the ball in the basket, hitting on just two of its first 10 shots. Despite the poor shooting, the Pack took a brief three-point lead before the Cavaliers went on a 13-1 run to take control. Virginia had four turnovers in the first half and shot 46 percent from the field while the Pack had eight giveaways and shot just 33 percent.
The Cavaliers stretched their lead to 14 on a four-point play by Singletary. The junior guard, who had 16 first-half points, hit a 3-pointer from the top of the key and drew a foul from Neiman. The free-throw gave the Cavs their biggest lead, and Virginia held the margin for a 40-26 lead at the break.
"We shot a lot of bad shots, a lot of shots out of our offense," Grant said. "Coach made it clear to us in the second half that we had to get out there, run our offense and take what we wanted."
Coming out of the locker room, the Pack clawed its way back into the game. State hit its first five shots of the half, going on a 13-3 run to cut the Cavalier lead to four. After Virginia extended the lead back into double-digits, State went on a game-altering 21-4 run to complete the comeback and take a 60-52 lead with seven minutes remaining. The Pack held on to that lead for the rest of the game, completing its second improbable win in as many days.
"We came here to win the tournament, we didn't come here because we had to," Grant said.