HAYNES: Rematch for Virginia and NC State
BY TONY HAYNES
Raleigh, N.C - Sure NC State lost to Florida on a shocking 70-foot heave by Chandler Parsons, and sure the Wolfpack also fell at Arizona on a runner at the buzzer by Nic Wise. But of all the close defeats suffered by the Pack this season, the one that might have stuck in coach Sidney Lowe's craw the most was a 70-62 lost to Virginia back on January 9th.
Building a 10-point lead by the midway point of the second half, NC State had several opportunities to put the Cavaliers on life support simply by knocking down some free throws.
But it didn't work out that way.
Emboldened by the Wolfpack's futility at the line in the final 10 minutes, Virginia - led by star Sylven Landesberg (23 points) and center Mike Scott (14) - stormed back to post an eight-point win.
And while NC State was missing 10-of-26 tries from the charity stripe, the Cavaliers knocked down 19-of-20, including 17 in a row down the stretch to ice it.
On Wednesday night in Charlottesville, the Wolfpack (14-8, 2-5) will be facing its first ACC rematch of the season when it faces off against the surprising Cavs (13-6, 4-2) at 7 p.m.
Since the two squads faced off just three weeks ago, both will have plenty of familiarity with each other when they tangle at the John Paul Jones arena. And while it's unlikely either team will make major wholesale changes the second time around, there could be a few new wrinkles thrown in by both coaches.
"You have to make some adjustments," Lowe said. "Obviously, they watch the film as we do and you remember what happened the last time. I think you're going to come in with your basic game plan. I know they've added a few plays, so they've made some adjustments. The main thing is coming out, playing hard and taking care of the basketball."
Virginia's comeback in early January started when first-year coach Tony Bennett chose to go with a smaller line-up that featured four perimeter players on the floor surrounding the lone pivot man, Scott. Moving to the 'four' spot or power forward position, the mobile Landesberg was productive slashing to the basket against bigger defenders. And when the ball went to Scott, he was able to go one-on-one in the post since the Wolfpack couldn't help off the four other players - all shooters - on the perimeter.
Lowe expects to see Virginia go small again at certain points on Wednesday, but controlling Landesberg is the biggest challenge.
"He's such a tough player," Lowe said. "We have to play solid help defense and be in the position to help the guy who's guarding him. He's big, he's strong, he gets to the foul line and he's really good one-on-one."
After erupting for 29 points in Sunday's 75-60 win at North Carolina, the 6-6 Landesberg was named ACC Player of the Week. But if he continues at his current pace, he'll certainly be in the running for Player of the Year honors as well. A sophomore, Landesberg averages 18 points per game for the year, but he's been even better in six ACC games, averaging 21 points per contest against conference opponents.
As for his team, Lowe said on Monday that he had not yet decided whether point guard Javier Gonzalez would return to the starting line-up on Wednesday. Gonzalez was held out of the starting line-up in Saturday's victory over North Carolina Central for breaking a team rule.
Like Landesberg, NC State center Tracy Smith is having an 'All-ACC' type of year, averaging 17.7 and 8.3 rebounds per game. Over his last five games, the 6-8 junior is averaging 20 points per contest, and shooting 68 percent from the field.