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Feb 6, 2002

Box Score | Video Highlights and Postgame Comments

AP Sports Writer

RALEIGH, N.C. – It was hard to pinpoint what was more impressive – North Carolina State’s versatility or its ability to overcome adversity.

Both equated to a big Atlantic Coast Conference win for the Wolfpack on Wednesday night.

Scooter Sherrill scored a career-high 20 points off the bench and Marcus Melvin, starting in place of the suspended Julius Hodge, added 16 as N.C. State beat No. 10 Virginia 85-68.

“I guess there was kind of a feeling of a void without Julius, but if those guys can maintain this it will be even better for us,” senior Anthony Grundy said of Sherrill and Melvin combining for 36 points in Hodge’s position.

“Those guys have done a great job of working in practice and staying at it,” Grundy added. “Those guys are roommates so they may have talked about it beforehand.”

The Wolfpack (17-6, 6-4) swept the slumping Cavaliers in the regular season for the first time since 1987-88 to remain in sole possession of fourth place in the ACC as Grundy added 25 points – eight over the final 1:31.

“Guys just rolled their sleeves up,” Grundy said of his team’s effort. “We knew how important this game was. We had a two-game skid and guys wanted to get it done.”

Meanwhile, Virginia (14-6, 4-5) dropped its fourth straight and is in danger of falling out of the Top Ten for the first time since Nov. 19, when the Cavaliers were ranked 11th.

“Maybe we got punched in the stomach and just didn’t respond,” Virginia coach Pete Gillen said. “We’re at a crossroads. We’ve got see whether we’re going to fold our tents or come out swinging. We’ve got to look in the mirror and see what we’re going to do.”

Two Virginia starters – Chris Williams and Keith Jenifer – didn’t get a basket, going a combined 0-for-10 from the field.

“Right now we’re hurting a lot,” team captain Roger Mason Jr. said. “This team has too much talent to be playing like this. And it can get worse if we don’t get refocused.”

Sherrill filled in when Melvin got into foul trouble, going 6-of-9 from the field as N.C. State won its third game over a Top Ten team – two over the Cavaliers. Sherrill’s previous best was 19 points earlier this season at Clemson.

“Those weren’t the guys that we thought would hurt us,” Mason said. “That shows how much talent they have.”

Travis Watson led Virginia with a career-high 29 points and 12 rebounds.

Hodge was suspended Tuesday by ACC commissioner John Swofford for throwing an elbow to the head of Maryland point guard Steve Blake over the weekend. He watched his teammates from the bench in street clothes.

But the Wolfpack didn’t miss their freshman star, going 9-of-20 from 3-point range and forcing a sloppy Virginia team into 20 turnovers to inch closer to the program’s first NCAA tournament berth since 1991.

“The coaches have been barking for the past two weeks about our defense so I think guys really took it to heart,” said Grundy, who had four of N.C. State’s 12 steals.

The 6-foot-8 Melvin had started the first 16 games before being demoted. But he made the most of his opportunity back with the starters, making all three of his 3-pointers in the first half to give the Wolfpack a working margin.

Melvin added another one behind the arc during N.C. State’s 12-4 run to open the second half for a 20-point lead with 16:34 left.

Virginia never got closer than 11 points the rest of the way to drop its fifth straight in Raleigh.

“I thought we were out-scrapped and out-toughed by N.C. State,” Gillen said. “They played better ball than us.”

Virginia fell behind early, then used an 8-0 run to gain some momentum as the Wolfpack offense started slowly without Hodge.

But the Cavaliers had a disastrous final 10 minutes of the first half, going 5{ minutes without a point and managing just two baskets and six free throws by Watson as N.C. State took control.

N.C. State’s defense keyed its 15-2 run. Virginia turned it over on four straight possessions and seven times overall during its scoring drought that turned the tide and gave the Wolfpack a 40-28 halftime lead.

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