UVA falters down the stretch in 73-65 ACC semifinal loss to Wolfpack

By Scott Ratcliffe

Photo: Andy Hancock/ACC

WASHINGTON, D.C. — For the second night in a row, third-seeded Virginia could smell victory in the closing seconds of regulation, but was once again snakebitten at the buzzer.

This time, in Friday’s rubber match against No. 10 seed NC State in the ACC semifinals, the Cavaliers held a six-point lead with 51.4 seconds left in the second half.

However, Wolfpack guard Michael O’Connell stunned the Capital One Arena crowd with a banked-in 3-pointer that rolled around the iron and through the net in the waning seconds to send it to overtime, as State ultimately pulled off its third upset in as many days, a 73-65 triumph in overtime to end the Wahoos’ stay in the nation’s capital.

The Cavaliers (23-10) went cold at the wrong time Friday, misfiring on their final five attempts from the field in the extra session after grabbing their last lead of the night, 65-64, on a Ryan Dunn slam with just over two minutes left in OT.

From there, State (21-14) closed the contest with 9 unanswered points, as DJ Burns’ three-point play on the ensuing trip put the Pack ahead to stay with 1:43 on the clock, and UVA simply couldn’t recover. Burns led his team with 19 points — 11 of which came in the final 3:50 of regulation and overtime — on 8-of-11 shooting.

Isaac McKneely did all he could to keep the Hoos’ ACC Tournament title hopes alive, leading all scorers with 23 points (5 of 9 from 3-point land), but his miss on the front end of a one-and-one with UVA ahead by three with 5.3 ticks showing allowed O’Connell to have a chance to knot it up at the horn.

“It’s hard to think you have the game won, especially I’m at the free-throw line, have a chance to win it, and I couldn’t do it,” admitted McKneely afterwards. “I’ll look back on it, get back in the lab, get back on the free-throw line and hopefully we’ll get a chance to ice a game some other times. Hopefully I can do it.

“But, yeah, it takes the breath out of you. It’s hard to come back and bounce back in overtime and play after that.”

It was a tight, back-and-forth contest that featured 10 ties and nine lead changes. Virginia used an 11-2 run to build its largest lead of the night, 53-46, with 4:18 to go.

During the spurt, which spanned three minutes, McKneely nailed a pair of triples and a jumper, with another 3-ball from Taine Murray sandwiched in between, with chants of “U-V-A” filling the arena as Kevin Keatts screamed for a timeout.

Out of the break, Burns scored consecutive buckets to make it a three-point game as the clock went under three minutes. After a McKneely jumper on the other end, former Wahoo Casey Morsell jammed one home off of a turnover, and the Virginia lead was back to three, 55-52, with 1:52 to play.

It looked as if the Cavaliers had a good chance to wrap it up after Reece Beekman jammed one down from the baseline before coming away with a steal and drawing a flagrant foul on Burns, with UVA already ahead by five with 1:10 left.

Beekman missed both attempts from the line, however, leaving the door open, then split a pair with 51.4 ticks left after Virginia retained possession, making it a 58-52 contest.

“Certainly we played well enough, and that hurt us,” Tony Bennett said of the continued struggles from the stripe, “and hopefully we get a chance to keep playing and we’ll knock them down when the next opportunity comes.”

Morsell then drew a three-shot foul on Dunn and sank all three with 43.1 seconds to go, and it was right back to a one-possession affair.

On the ensuing trip, Beekman took the shot clock all the way down and kicked it to a wide-open Andrew Rohde for three in the corner, but his shot caromed off the rim and into the hands of the Wolfpack, who called one last timeout to set up a play with 16.3 seconds left.

Morsell leaned into a 3-point try and missed, as McKneely secured the rebound and headed to the line with the chance to ice the game, but it wasn’t in the cards this time around.

“We were a little bit deflated, obviously,” Groves  said about O’Connell’s shot, one that Dunn referred to as a prayer. “Another game where a guy hits a really, really tough shot against us, but I still felt like we were optimistic heading into overtime. Five minutes of gameplay left, we felt good about it. We had a good group on the floor and we were rolling in the right direction, the ball just didn’t bounce our way tonight.”

Virginia shot 38 percent (25 for 66), including 32 percent from downtown (9 for 28), while coming up short on 5 of its 11 free-throw attempts (55 percent) and in the rebounding department (38-35). The Cavaliers’ 9 turnovers led to 11 points, as they scored just 6 points off of State’s 8 giveaways.

The Hoos scored 17 second-chance points off of 13 offensive boards, but were outscored 40-26 in the interior, 7-0 in transition and 20-3 off the bench. Jake Groves (1 for 6; 1 for 4) provided Virginia’s lone non-starter points on a 3-ball in the first half.

Beekman posted his second double-double in as many nights with 17 points and 11 assists to go along with 4 rebounds and a pair of steals, while Dunn just missed on his own double-double with 10 points and 9 rebounds.

“I felt like we were cutting hard and we moved pretty well to get open shots, and we took what the defense gave us,” Beekman said of the feat, his fourth double-double of the season. “I didn’t have to force much and my teammates made enough plays off the ball to put me in that position. Everybody stepped up.”

Murray had another solid outing with 8 points in his first career start, while Minor had 4 points on a pair of stickbacks and also amassed 9 boards while giving all he could defensively against Burns.

For State, O’Connell and Ben Middlebrooks had 12 points apiece, while Morsell added 11. DJ Horne and Jayden Taylor, the team’s top two scorers on the season, were limited to a combined 10 points on 3-of-11 shooting.

The Wolfpack, who shot 48 percent from the field (28 of 58) and 18 percent from 3-point range (3 for 17), will take on top-seeded and fourth-ranked North Carolina in Saturday’s ACC championship game. The Tar Heels hung on to defeat No. 4 seed Pitt, 72-65, in Friday’s first semifinal.

UVA, meanwhile, will now await its postseason fate during Sunday’s NCAA Tournament Selection Show (6 p.m., CBS).

“We made some mistakes I think everyone wishes they could have back,” said Minor, “but that’s how the game is. You’ve just got to learn from it and move on.”

Team Notes

Courtesy UVA Media Relations

  • Virginia (23-10, 13-7 ACC) is 8-8 away from home, including a 3-2 mark on neutral courts
  • UVA played two overtime contests in the same ACC Tournament for the first time since 1955
  • UVA is 5-4 in overtime games at the ACC Tournament
  • NC State outscored Virginia 15-7 in overtime
  • NC State’s Michael O’Connell sent the game to overtime with a 3-pointer at the end of regulation
  • UVA led 57-52, but went 1 of 5 from the free throw line in the final 70 seconds of regulation
  • The game was tied 29-29 at the half, marking the first time this season UVA has been tied after the first 20 minutes
  • NC State out-rebounded UVA 38-35
  • UVA is 1-2 in overtime games in 2023-24

UVA All-Time in the ACC Tournament

  • The Cavaliers are 47-66 all-time in the ACC Tournament and 4-3 in Washington, D.C., reaching the title game in 2016
  • UVA has posted a 3-5 mark as the No. 3 seed in tournament
  • UVA is 10-17 all-time in the semifinals
  • Bennett is 16-11 all-time in the ACC Tournament

Series Notes

  • Virginia is 70-87 all-time vs. NC State in the series that dates to 1912-13
  • UVA is 3-15 against NC State at the ACC Tournament and 3-22 overall against the Wolfpack on neutral courts
  • UVA went 1-2 vs. NC State this season
  • NC State defeated UVA 76-60 at PNC Arena and UVA topped the Wolfpack 59-52 in overtime at John Paul Jones Arena
  • Bennett is 16-7 vs. NC State as head coach at Virginia

Player Notes

  • Double Figure Scorers: Isaac McKneely (23), Reece Beekman (17), Ryan Dunn (10)
  • McKneely netted his fifth career 20-point game
  • McKneely (5 3-pointers) has four or more 3-pointers in five games and two or more in 21 games
  • McKneely reached double figures for the 26th time
  • Beekman recorded his sixth career double-double with a career-high tying 11 assists
  • Beekman (11 assists) moved into a tie for second on UVA’s single-season assist list with 208
  • Beekman recorded his eighth career 10-assist game
  • Beekman reached double figures for the 58th time (28 in 2023-24)
  • Beekman moved into 39th UVA’s all-time scoring list with 1,186 points
  • Ryan Dunn reached double figures for the 13th time
  • Dunn (2 blocks) moved into 10th on UVA’s career list with 109
  • Taine Murray (8 points) made his first career start in his 65th collegiate game