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ACC Scoring Nightmares

Sometimes it’s the defense. Sometimes it’s just a bad shooting night. Either way, here are some real head scratchers

NCAA Basketball: Virginia at N.C. State
Jan 29, 2019; Raleigh, NC, USA; Virginia Cavaliers head coach Tony Bennett (left) and North Carolina State Wolfpack head coach Kevin Keatts (right) talk prior to their game at PNC Arena.
Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

You’d expect to see Virginia crop up repeatedly on a list of low scoring outcomes in ACC games over the past decade.

Sure enough Virginia, which led the conference in scoring defense every year since 2012, used its clamp-down style to win nearly half of the games between 2011 and 2020 in which an ACC team scored no more than a point per minute (40).

Impressively, four of those offensive stinkers were inflicted by Virginia as an ungracious guest on someone else’s court.

Twenty-one ACC squads failed to pass the 40-point mark in the decade. Ten were against UVa. Duke, Louisville (which didn’t join the league until 2015), UNC and Notre Dame (2014 entrant) avoided the low scoring realm entirely.

Georgia Tech scored 38 or fewer on four occasions between 2011 and 2015, more than any other league squad during the past decade. Twice it was against Virginia. Three of those Tech fizzles came in 2012 en route to an 11-20 record, 4-12 in the ACC in Brian Gregory’s first year as head coach.

Three low-ball contests occurred last season, the worst Syracuse’s 34-48 season-opening debacle at Virginia. Only in 2012 did the league see more defensive gems (five) — or offensive failures if you prefer.

The list of the decade’s most punchless single-game attacks is topped by NC State’s execrable 24-47 effort on Feb. 2, 2019 against Virginia Tech at Raleigh. The 23rd-ranked Wolfpack hit 9 of 54 shots, 2 of 23 on threes, cited as the worst field goal shooting (.167) in ACC history. The Pack’s point total was the lowest by a ranked team since the shotclock was universally employed in 1986.

“It was almost like there was something on the rim,” said coach Kevin Keatts. Orange paint, maybe?

But the lowest scoring effort in Wolfpack program history, this one opportunistic and intentional, actually resulted in victory. That nadir came in the 1968 ACC Tournament semifinals at Charlotte. Back when only one team from each league could appear in the NCAA tournament, third seed NC State held the ball to oust No. 2 Duke 12-10.

In a 2001 interview Pack alum Norm Sloan, the coach behind the deep freeze, blamed Vic Bubas, a former NC State assistant under Everett Case, for the tactic’s success against the Blue Devils. He was “stubborn, and upset at what we were doing instead of just going out there and kicking our fanny,” Sloan said of his Duke coaching counterpart.

“Bubas is going to let us be behind 4-2 at halftime? I was thrilled to death. But I couldn’t understand it. My wife sent my son over and he tapped me on the shoulder and he says, ‘Mama wants to know, what are you doing?’”

Sloan laughed recounting the incident. A volatile sort, it’s unlikely he laughed at the time. “I said, ‘You go back over there and sit with your mother.’”

Before leaving the topic of stunted scoring we should credit Virginia for an involuntary low in a postseason defeat that was equally historic to NC State’s win almost 50 years earlier.

This occurred in the 2017 NCAA regional semifinals, a year prior to Tony Bennett’s Cavaliers becoming the first and only No. 1 seed ever eliminated in the tournament’s opening round, 74-54 by Maryland Baltimore County. UVa’s scoring against Florida in a 65-39 defeat was a landmark whiff, the lowest point production ever by an ACC team in NCAA play. That includes the pre-shotclock era.

. Lowest Scores By ACC Teams, Past Decade
Score Low Scorer Winner Season
24-47 @NC State Virginia Tech 2019
28-57 Georgia Tech @ Virginia 2015
32-28 NC State @Virginia 2011
34-70 @Wake Forest Virginia 2015
34-48 @Syracuse Virginia 2020
36-54 Georgia Tech Miami (ACCT) 2012
36-56 Florida State @ Virginia 2013
36-61 Clemson @ Virginia 2018
37-58 @Georgia Tech Clemson 2012
37-66 @Pittsburgh Virginia 2018
37-64 Wake Forest @ Clemson 2019
38-70 @Georgia Tech Virginia 2012
39-74 Wake Forest @ Georgia Tech 2011
39-65 Virginia Florida (NCAA) 2017
39-65 Virginia Tech @ Virginia 2020
40-76 @Wake Forest NC State 2012
40-68 Clemson @ Duke 2013
40-65 Miami @Virginia 2014
40-62 Boston College @ Syracuse 2016
40-69 Virginia @ Purdue 2020
40-76 Virginia Tech @ NC State 2012