Virginia snaps four-game skid by beating NC State
By Aaron Beard
AP Basketball Writer
RALEIGH (AP) — Sure, No. 18 Virginia was glad to win a game for the first time in nearly three weeks.
But Saturday’s 70-55 victory at North Carolina State was more about something simpler: rebuilding confidence and rhythm by making shots.
“We talked about just keep playing the defense to keep you in there,” coach Tony Bennett said, “and sooner or later — hopefully — we’ll knock down some shots, get some different kind of looks. That’s what we’ve been talking about in all these games.”
Freshman Kyle Guy scored 19 points for the Cavaliers (19-9, 9-7 Atlantic Coast Conference), who shot 49 percent and made 11 of 16 3-pointers to snap a four-game losing skid lowlighted by three particularly ugly offensive performances.
Virginia is built around defense and efficient offense, a style that grinds down opponents in slow-paced and often low-scoring games. But in the recent skid, Virginia just flat couldn’t shoot and failed to crack even 56 points in the past three games.
That’s why doing something as routine as knocking down a midrange jumper was a big deal Saturday.
Bennett said the team took a day off, then spent much of the ensuing practice days with a heavy emphasis on shooting and fundamentals.
It also helped that the Cavaliers were playing the Wolfpack (15-15, 4-13), whose defense is far and away the worst in the league according to KenPom’s adjusted efficiency stats (108.1 points per 100 possessions).
Guy got things started with 14 points and four first-half 3s.
It was Virginia’s longest losing streak since dropping nine straight during Bennett’s first season in 2009-10. But the Cavaliers led 35-21 by halftime, pushed that to 19 early after halftime and led by double figures nearly the entire second half.
N.C. State shot 32 percent in the final regular-season home game for coach Mark Gottfried. The school announced earlier this month that he won’t return next year after a once-promising season completely unraveled.
Virginia: Virginia needed this offensive performance badly after shooting just 32 percent in the last three games, including 10 of 52 (19 percent) from 3-point range.
N.C. State: N.C. State finished its home regular-season schedule at 2-7 in ACC games, one of many reasons a disappointing season that ultimately cost Gottfried his job.
SMITH’S HOME FINALE?
Freshman Dennis Smith Jr. scored 13 points on 4-for-14 shooting with five turnovers for N.C. State. The touted point guard is considered a likely one-and-done prospect but hasn’t officially announced an NBA decision.
BROWNING, ELMORE COMBINE FOR 51, MARSHALL EDGES CHARLOTTE
CHARLOTTE (AP) — Stevie Browning and Jon Elmore combined for 51 points and Marshall held on down the stretch to defeat Charlotte 93-89 on Saturday.
Marshall’s guard tandem has combined for 22 games of scoring at least 20 points each this season. Browning found his shooting touch after a stretch of four games where he either scored fewer than 10 points or didn’t play at all. Elmore has reached double figures in every game this season.
Charlotte, which trailed by 14 in the first half, had rallied into a 54-41 lead early in the second. Browning and Elmore did the heavy lifting with nine of Marshall’s 11-1 run, cutting the gap to 55-54 with just under 15 minutes left.
The Thundering Herd (16-13, 9-7 Conference USA) led by as many as seven before Charlotte (12-15, 6-10) made its stretch run, twice whittling the lead down to two points in the last 55 seconds. Anthony Vanhook and Andrien White each scored for Charlotte to make it a two-point game, but both times Marshall answered with two free throws.
Vanhook scored 21 and White 18 for the 49ers.
LOUISIANA-MONROE BEATS APPALACHIAN STATE, 75-64
BOONE (AP) — Travis Munnings scored 21 points with 8-for-11 shooting to lead Louisiana-Monroe to a 75-64 win over Appalachian State (8-19, 3-13) on Saturday.
Nick Coppola added 16 points, Sam McDaniel had 14 and Marvin Jean-Pierre hauled in 10 rebounds for Louisiana-Monroe. The Warhawks (8-20, 2-13 Sun Belt Conference) pulled away in the second half with 57 percent shooting from the field and finished 26 for 52 overall.
Trailing by 10 early in the second half, ULM took the lead for good during a 17-4 run that made it 50-45 with 9:28 to play. Munnings had two 3-pointers, two layups and a dunk in the go-ahead run.
Appalachian State (8-19, 3-13) twice cut the gap to a single point, first with two free throws from Patrick Good to trail 52-51 and then 54-53 after Isaac Johnson’s dunk. ULM then pulled steadily away down the stretch.
Ronshad Shabazz led Appalachian State with 20 points and Johnson had 10 rebounds.