Cavaliers beat shorthanded Wolfpack 58-55

jgiglio@newsobserver.comJanuary 30, 2013 

— N.C. State expected to play Tuesday’s game at Virginia without a completely healthy C.J. Leslie.

The Wolfpack didn’t expect to lose Lorenzo Brown midway through the first half.

N.C. State got a big game from a flu-stricken Leslie but couldn’t win without Brown. Joe Harris’ 22 points lifted Virginia to a 58-55 win against No. 19 N.C. State on Tuesday at John Paul Jones Arena.

The Wolfpack (16-5, 5-3 ACC) might have to figure out how to play without its star point guard, who injured his ankle during the first half, a little longer than the final 30 minutes of Tuesday’s loss.

“I think it will be a couple of days before we have any idea if he’ll play against Miami,” N.C. State coach Mark Gottfried said.

Gottfried said Brown was the “best point guard in the ACC” and everything about the Wolfpack was different without him.

“We have to overcome that and if he doesn’t play Saturday, we’ll have to do that for 40 minutes,” Gottfried said. Brown turned his left ankle on a layup attempt, which was contested by Virginia forward Darion Atkins, with 10 minutes, 38 seconds left in the first half. There was contact on the play but there was no foul called. Brown did not play the rest of the game.

Leslie, who missed practice Monday and the pregame shootaround with flu symptoms, did not start Tuesday. He checked in after 6:14 and eventually carried N.C. State’s short-handed lineup with 20 points and 14 rebounds.

“You could tell that he was still fatigued, but he came out with a lot of heart and he played well,” Scott Wood said of Leslie.

Leslie, who also had seven turnovers, was able to play 30 minutes but said he was never 100 percent.

“I really couldn’t get a good feeling for the game,” Leslie said. “I couldn’t really get going like I wanted to.”

Gottfried gave Leslie more credit than Leslie was willing to give himself.

“He gave us everything he could,” Gottfried said. “I thought he fought through it and played well.”

A jumper from Akil Mitchell (14 points and 12 rebounds) gave Virginia a 56-54 lead with 3:54 left, which the Cavaliers (15-5, 5-2) were able to protect with their defense and some timely free throws.

Senior point guard Jontel Evans, who finished with seven assists, made a pair of free throws with 26.1 seconds left to uphold Virginia’s fifth straight home win against the Wolfpack. Wood got a contested 3-point attempt off with 2.7 seconds left, which would have tied the score, but it was short and Virginia’s players rushed the court to celebrate. Cavaliers guard Paul Jesperson partially blocked Wood’s shot.

“He did a good closing out, he probably got a piece of the ball and that’s how it is,” Wood said.

N.C. State led for the first 271/2 minutes. Leslie answered Virginia’s first lead, 38-37 off of a Mike Tobey jumper at 12:25, with a three-point play.

State led 47-42 after a Leslie dunk and a 3-pointer from Wood. Virginia proceeded to tied the score at 49 and the teams went back and forth over the final 51/2 minutes.

Without Brown, who had been averaging 14.7 potions and 8.7 assists in ACC play, N.C. State’s offense couldn’t convert. With freshman Rodney Purvis at the point, State had one point and no field goals over the final 4:22.

“We didn’t execute nearly as we should have late in the game,” Gottfried said. “You have to step forward. If you have an injury, you have to find a way to make it work.”

OBSERVATIONS

-- With junior point guard Lorenzo Brown injured, freshman Tyler Lewis played 15 minutes. In the first seven ACC games, Lewis played a total of 21 minutes and did not play at Maryland.

Lewis, who is undersized at 5-foot-11 and has had issues on defense, finished with three points and two assists without a turnover. N.C. State coach Mark Gottfried will have to use Lewis more without Brown, even if it is in a backup role to Rodney Purvis.

-- Fourth-year Virginia coach Tony Bennett is 5-1 against N.C. State with the loss coming in last year’s ACC tournament. Bennett got away with leaving freshman forward Evan Nolte in the game for 13 minutes. N.C. State’s game plan, even before Brown got hurt, was to attack Nolte.

Bennett did get 13 points and seven rebounds from reserve Mike Tobey, who played 20 minutes despite foul trouble.

-- N.C. State senior Richard Howell finished with a career-best six assists. Howell also had 12 points and 11 rebounds for his 13th double-double of the season and sixth in ACC play.

Giglio: 919-829-8938

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