"I said, ‘Ball game,' because I knew I was going to make those free throws," Fells said. "He said something at the free throw line, and I didn't like it. So I let him know, ‘You just lost the ball game, so right now, I wouldn't be talking.'"
As it has frequently in ACC competition, State led big in the game, but allowed Virginia to come back and put itself in a position to win. The end of the game played out eerily similar to State's loss at Virginia Tech earlier this season, as junior Dennis Horner stepped to the free throw line with 16 seconds remaining in the game and missed two shots with State leading by three points. Coach Sidney Lowe instructed his team to foul, sending Landesberg to the line to hit two free throws and cut the lead to one point with seven seconds left.
"I wanted to have control of the game," Lowe said. "I wanted it to be on us…I didn't want a Hail Mary or one of those guys to get open and hit a three."
Virginia then fouled Fells, who knocked down the free throws, and State again fouled to prevent a Virginia three-point attempt. This time, Landesberg missed the free throw and Fells skied for the rebound and was sent to the line for two more free throws to ice the five-point victory.
"That's the difference in winning and losing games, is someone making a play," Lowe said. "We talk about that all the time. And [Fells] made two. He got the rebound and he knocked down the two free throws."
State jumped on Virginia in the first half, forcing turnovers on five of the Cavaliers first nine possessions. State led by as much as 18 points in the first half before Virginia made a run to cut the lead to four points going into the half.
"At halftime, coach Lowe came in, he was very upset with the turnovers in the first half," sophomore forward Tracy Smith said. "He thought we did a god job, but we turned the ball over too much and they scored just about every time we turned the ball over and that's how they got in the game."
State's point guards, in particular, struggled in the first half. Sophomore Javi Gonzalez turned the ball over five times in six minutes and redshirt junior Farnold Degand struggled to get State's offense flowing at times.
"Our point guard, Javi Gonzalez, I don't want to single him out or anything, but I think he had five turnovers in the first half," Fells said. "We can't have that from our point guards, from our leaders. That's something we have to get better at."
In the second half, State fans got a scare as redshirt junior Brandon Costner took a hard fall and went to the bench after appearing to injure his right arm. Costner returned to the game, but was held scoreless. As a result, State's bench had to contribute offensively to rebuild the lead. Freshman C.J. Williams scored 16 points and connected on four of his six three point attempts. Horner also added 12 points off the bench, as Virginia began to collapse on State's big men.
"They're a difficult challenge, North Carolina State, because they have a lot of guys they can go to offensively," Virginia coach Dave Leito said. "It could be anybody…today it was Williams. It was Smith. It's not always McCauley or Costner."
Another major factor in the win, according to Lowe, was Fells' defense on Landesberg, who averages 18 points per game. Though Landesberg scored 16 points, he went only 4-14 from the field.
"He was determined to make everything tough for him," Lowe said. "Courtney took on the challenge to deny him and just make him work for everything."
The win moves the Pack to 5-7 in the ACC and 15-10 overall as it travels to Wake Forest Thursday and looks to creep up the ACC standings to close the season.
"We're going to control our own destiny," Lowe said. "If we take it one game at a time, in the end we'll see where we are. This was a big one here to keep this thing going and try to creep up that ladder."