GREENSBORO, N.C. — After Virginia's 75-56 loss to North Carolina State on Friday in the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament quarterfinals, there was no late hour lobbying for a spot in the NCAA tournament from panicked players in the Cavaliers' locker room.
U.Va. (21-11) let its opportunity to make a definitive case for inclusion in the field of 68 slip by failing to hit shots, getting crushed on the boards and letting No. 5 seed N.C. State get out on fast breaks.
Now, all U.Va. can do is wait and see if the NCAA tournament committee sees enough on the Cavaliers' resume to warrant a spot in the tournament for a second straight season, but guard Jontel Evans offered the perfect synopsis.
"If we play like this, we don't deserve to play (in the NCAA tournament), but if we play like we did against Duke and Maryland and North Carolina, then we should deserve to play," said Evans, a Bethel High graduate.
U.Va.'s Joe Harris endured another cold shooting effort, making just 4 of 13 shots from the floor, including 2 of 9 from 3-point range. He had 13 points, while forward Akil Mitchell led U.Va. with 19 points, eight rebounds, two blocks and three steals.
While Harris struggled from the perimeter, he wasn't alone. U.Va. shot just 38.9 percent, including 20 percent (5 of 20) on 3-pointers, and was out-rebounded 39-28. U.Va. missed nine of 10 shots from beyond the 3-point line in the first half and trailed 30-21 at halftime.
"They did a good job of making cuts (to the basket) hard," said Harris, who has made just 17 of 57 shots (29.8 percent) in the last four games. "They weren't making anything easy."
The last time U.Va. lost by a wider margin to an ACC opponent was Feb. 20, 2010, when it was on the short end of a 72-49 decision at Clemson.
Scott Wood, who made 7 of 12 shots from 3-point range to account for most of his 23 points, helped N.C. State (24-9) build a double-digit cushion early in the second half with a trio of 3-pointers in a span of a 1minute, 23 seconds. His outburst put N.C. State, which will play Saturday in the ACC tournament semifinals against top-seed Miami, up 41-25 with 17:32 left.
"When Wood gets it going, they become so dangerous," said U.Va. coach Tony Bennett, whose team was seeded No. 4 in the conference tournament.
"We have some quality wins, we have some bad losses and who knows what will happen. I'm sure people won't give us much of a chance. The committee will make their decision. This (N.C. State game) would have helped and I thought we had the right mind set going in."
U.Va. trimmed the deficit to 53-42 with 9:56 left, when Harris hit 1 of 2 free throws after N.C. State's T.J. Warren was called for a technical foul and Harris followed with a 3-pointer. N.C. State went back up by 16 in the next three minutes, and eventually led by as many as 21 points.
U.Va., which defeated N.C. State 58-55 on Jan. 29 in Charlottesville, has lost three of its last four games and hasn't made it to the ACC tournament semifinals in the last 18 years. Wood's seven 3-pointers established an ACC tournament school record for N.C. State.
"I'm not one to go into the huddle and say 'give me the ball,' but it feels good when you're knocking down your shots and gives you the confidence to know the next one is going in," Wood said.
Warren added 18 points on 9 of 11 shooting from the floor, and C.J. Leslie had 17 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks. N.C. State shot 45.8 percent and was credited with having a 9-0 advantage in fast break points.
If U.Va. doesn't make the NCAA tournament, it will have a good shot at hosting a National Invitation Tournament game Tuesday or Wednesday. The NCAA tournament selection show is 6 p.m. Sunday.
"It's not in our control right now, so all we can do is sit and wait," said U.Va.'s Justin Anderson regarding the NCAA tournament. "Whatever we do get selected for, we have to start preparing hard for that and whatever team we have in the first round. We hope we're going to the NCAA tournament, but with the whole 'bracketology' thing, it's so shaky because it depends on who loses what and all of that. There's nothing we can really do right now."Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun