CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — You can't win the game in the first six minutes of each half, but you can lose it.
N.C. State figured that out the hard way Tuesday night in a 69-58 loss at Virginia.
The Cavaliers out-scored State by 20 points in the first six minutes of each half. Senior Will Sherrill (14 points) hit four of UVa's 10 3-pointers to move the Cavaliers (6-9) ahead of the Wolfpack (5-10) for eighth-place in the ACC.
The slow starts left the Wolfpack with a fourth straight loss at UVa and discombobulated after its seventh ACC road loss in eight games this season.
"It's tough losing and losing to teams I honestly don't think we should be losing to," sophomore guard Scott Wood said. "It comes down to executing and playing a lot better defense."
State (15-14) could see the Cavaliers (15-14) again next Thursday in the ACC tournament. State needs to finish even or ahead of Miami (5-9 ACC) to take the No. 9 seed. The Pack finishes the regular season at home on Sunday against Florida State.
If the Pack gets another shot at UVa, it has to start better. Virginia scored the first 16 points of the game and began the second half with a 10-3 spurt to take control after the Pack's bench cut Virginia's halftime advantage to 32-28.
The Pack got season-best 16 points from senior guard Javier Gonzalez off the bench but it wasn't enough to offset a slow start to both halves by the Pack starters Ryan Harrow, Lorenzo Brown, C.J. Leslie and Tracy Smith.
It took State 4 minutes and 33 seconds to get on the scoreboard but once it got started, with a Wood 3-pointer, it made a 17-2 run to cut UVa's lead to a point.
Wolfpack coach Sidney Lowe removed all the starters except Wood and got a spark from the combination of Gonzalez, C.J. Williams, Richard Howell and Jordan Vandenberg.
"I thought the guys came off the bench and did a great job for us and got us back in the game," Lowe said.
As he has all season, Lowe used the same lineup that started the game to start the second half. He said he thought about riding the lineup that finished the first half but challenged the starters to respond to the poor start.
"I told them, your teammates pulled us through and got us back in it," Lowe said. "Now you guys have to come out ready to play."
It didn't happen. Virginia got a 3 from Sammy Zeglinski to open the half and another from Sherrill at 14:44 and it was 42-31.
Then Lowe went back to Gonzalez, who scored five straight points, followed by a layup by Brown to cut UVa's advantage to 50-44 at 9:21. State couldn't get closer than six points the rest of the way.
Howell missed a put-back, rebounded by the inspired Sherrill, and then Brown threw an alley-oop pass into the second row for a turnover.
"We just couldn't get over the hump," Gonzalez said. "That six-point lead, for some reason we just got stuck there."
Stuck with a familiar road result.
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