RALEIGH, N.C. — Kyle Guy did not pump his fist. He did not jump in the air, hollering for all to hear. He knocked down his 3-pointer and shuffled back down the court for defense, knowing there was more basketball to play.
But by the end of No. 3 Virginia’s heavyweight fight against No. 23 N.C. State on Tuesday, it was Guy’s long-range jumper about four minutes into overtime that proved the decisive blow in the Cavaliers’ 66-65 win in front of a rabid crowd at PNC Arena.
“That was a big shot,” coach Tony Bennett said. “There was enough answering, and that’s what we needed to do.”
It was far from Guy’s finest game. He scored 10 points on 3-for-11 shooting, with his game-winner serving as his lone made 3-pointer. It also was far from Virginia’s finest game; the Cavaliers turned the ball over 16 times and surrendered 16 offensive rebounds.
But the Wolfpack could not channel the magic that carried them a stunning, come-from-behind victory over Clemson three days earlier. Guy and Ty Jerome hugged at the final buzzer; Jay Huff (eight points) chest-bumped Austin Katstra.
N.C. State clawed at Virginia for much of the game, keeping it close but not sneaking ahead. The Wolfpack finally tied it at 55 with less than a minute remaining in a regulation, thanks to a pair of free throws from Markell Johnson.
Jerome took control on the ensuing possession, waving off Cavaliers players, dribbling away from the game clock. Then he drove the paint and threw up a floater that would’ve beat the buzzer but rimmed out. He locked his hands together and pinned them to the back of his head as regulation ran out.
Bennett said afterwards Jerome’s back was feeling tight, and the guard, who scored 12 points on 5-for-11 shooting, was covered with a protective brace under his jersey late the game. But Bennett wasn’t ready to accept that — or anything else — as an excuse.
“We brought losing into the equation, when I didn’t know we had to,” he said.
As overtime began, Wolfpack fans rose to their feet, minutes from achieving an upset that would’ve been the talk of college basketball.
All of the ingredients for a Virginia letdown were in place. Twenty miles from the site of its lone loss this season, Virginia (19-1, 7-1 ACC) stepped onto the court opposite one of the nation’s fastest teams in N.C. State (16-5, 6-2). And the Wolfpack were riding high from a thrilling comeback win over Clemson in front of their home fans three days earlier.
Trailing by six points with 26.5 seconds left Saturday, N.C. State stormed back to defeat the Tigers, 69-67, on a last minute 3-pointer from guard Braxton Beverly. The comeback dominated social media feeds for a couple days, and the thrill hadn’t worn off for the fans in attendance Tuesday.
The good vibes for N.C. State carried over to the court, as the Wolfpack refused to let the Wahoos go on the type of first-half run that helped Virginia separate itself from Wake Forest and Notre Dame in a pair of blowout wins last week.
Instead N.C. State forced Virginia into a rare shot clock violation late in the half, then knotted the game at 17 after forward Wyatt Walker (11 points, seven rebounds) turned a pair of offensive rebounds into a layup.
The Wolfpack trailed 27-23 at halftime. The Cavaliers, who entered the contest shooting 39.6 percent from long-range (second in the ACC), attempted just one 3-pointer in the first half, in addition to turning the ball over eight times. A standard UVa half it was not.
Things normalized slightly after the break. Not three minutes into the second, Virginia had taken three 3-pointers, with makes from Jerome and De’Andre Hunter (game-high 15 points) pushing the lead to 35-24.
N.C. State refused to wilt. Neither did the home fans, whose cheers reached a fever pitch after Wolfpack coach Kevin Keatts grabbed the arena microphone. He urged the fans to refrain from throwing things onto the court. Then he said something else: “Cheer as loud as you can!”
They did, and soon the Cavaliers’ lead had been whittled down to four. The teams continued to trade jabs through regulation and into overtime, until Guy landed the knockout punch in front of the Cavaliers’ bench.