Toppling three consecutive top-25 teams proved a task too large for the N.C. State Wolfpack on Sunday.
Having knocked off then-No. 2 Duke and No. 19 Clemson in its previous two games, the Wolfpack fell behind No. 3 Virginia by 16 points in the first half and suffered a 68-51 ACC basketball loss at John Paul Jones Arena.
The Cavaliers (16-1, 5-0 ACC) jumped to a 28-12 lead in the first half and never saw the Wolfpack draw closer than 10 points the rest of the game.
N.C. State (12-6, 2-3) shot 41 percent (23-of-56) and committed 15 turnovers as it remained winless on the road in ACC play. The Wolfpack missed its first 12 3-pointers and finished 2-of-16 (12.5 percent).
Torin Dorn was N.C. State’s top scorer with 16 points. Lavar Batts added 12.
Devon Hall led Virginia with 25 points, and Kyle Guy scored 17. Isaiah Wilkins added 10 for Virginia, which posted its eighth consecutive win and remained alone atop the ACC standings.
Already leading 30-20 at halftime, Virginia put the game away with a 7-0 run to start the half that pushed its lead to 37-20. Hall’s 3-pointer with 12:13 left gave Virginia a 45-25 lead.
The Wolfpack did have one good thing happen as sophomore guard Markell Johnson returned to play for the first time since Dec. 9. The Wolfpack’s starting point guard, Johnson was suspended for the last seven games after being indicted on a felony assault charge in his hometown of Cleveland, Ohio. His suspension ended last Thursday when a state prosecutor dropped the charge.
Johnson didn’t start against Virginia but came off the bench for the first time at the 14:27 mark of the first half.
He played 23 minutes and didn’t score but had five assists.
Virginia’s renowned defense stifled N.C. State through most of the first half. The Wolfpack made just seven of its first 25 shots as the Cavaliers led by as many as 16 points.
N.C. State closed the half with a flourish, though, as Abu scored a pair of baskets, and Lennard Freeman scored a put-back basket to cut Virginia’s halftime lead to 30-20.
N.C. State shot 33 percent in the first half, missing all nine of its 3-point shots and committing six turnovers.