ACC Tournament: N.C. State 67, Virginia 64

Published 12:00 am Friday, March 9, 2012

By Charles Odum
Associated Press
ATLANTA — Mark Gottfried insists his team came to Atlanta to win the ACC tournament — which would assure North Carolina State an NCAA berth.
The Wolfpack celebrated as if they punched their ticket after Friday’s quarterfinals.
A ball flew in the air and players jumped up and down on the court in a tight huddle after North Carolina State held on late to beat Virginia 67-64 to advance to the semifinals of the ACC tournament.
“It was just beautiful at the moment,” said N.C. State’s Lorenzo Brown.
The players’ jubilation appeared they believe they belong — and Gottfried agrees.
“I think we deserve to play in the NCAA tournament,” the coach said. “We did what we were supposed to do. But I’m not on the committee.”
N.C. State (21-11) will play top seed North Carolina in Saturday’s first ACC semifinal.
Gottfried was generous in his praise of fourth-ranked North Carolina, which rolled past Maryland, 85-69, on Friday, and swept two games from the Wolfpack in the regular season. But he said his team won’t back down.
“We all have got respect for North Carolina’s team,” Gottfried said. “But when we got on the plane to come here, we came with a goal to win this tournament.”
And to secure a spot in the NCAA tournament.
Gottfried added “the surest way” to end any lingering doubt about his team’s status with the NCAA tournament selection committee is to win the ACC tournament.
C.J. Leslie led N.C. State with 19 points and 14 rebounds. Brown had 15.
Mike Scott had 23 points and 10 rebounds and Joe Harris finished with 18 points for Virginia (22-9), which has not appeared in the semifinals of the ACC tournament since 1995, the league’s longest drought.
The Cavaliers’ spot in the NCAA tournament may not be in danger.
“I’ve never been to the tournament, so I’m hoping they will put is in there,” Scott said.
The Cavaliers trailed by no more than four points in the final minute but couldn’t catch the Wolfpack.
“I told the guys after the game that they certainly showed their heart,” said Virginia coach Tony Bennett. “I want to look at the film and see if we used our head enough.”
N.C. State’s Richard Howell, who had 10 points, missed two free throws with 1:11 remaining, costing the Wolfpack a chance to extend a 63-60 lead. Scott missed a short jumper for Virginia with 40 seconds remaining.
With the lead at three points, Harris missed a three-pointer for Virginia and fouled Brown, who made both free throws with 7.2 seconds remaining for a 67-62 lead.
“We had our opportunities at the end,” Bennett said. “We just were half a step behind.”
Scott said Leslie was a difficult matchup.
“He was very aggressive,” Scott said. “He is a very good player, long and athletic. He really took it to us today. … He is a very good player.”
Scott Wood sank five 3-pointers while scoring 22 points in Thursday’s 78-57 win over Boston College. He was 0-for-4 on 3-point attempts against Virginia before ending the drought with a 3-pointer with less than 1 second remaining in the first half.
Wood, fouled on the play by Sammy Zeglinski, sank the free throw to complete the four-point play and give the Wolfpack a 36-33 halftime lead.
Virginia led 9-3 before the Wolfpack took off on a 14-0 run. The Cavaliers recovered to briefly take the lead late in the half.