RALEIGH — Senior Night transformed into Ben McCauley night for North Carolina State.
Seniors McCauley, Courtney Fells and Simon Harris each went through the pregame rituals prior to playing Boston College on Wednesday at the RBC Center.
The loudest cheers came late when McCauley ripped down a crucial rebound with five second left, followed by two free throws with three seconds remaining to preserve the 74-69 upset victory against Boston College.
NC State ensured a winning record for the season by improving to 16-12 overall and 6-9 in the ACC. The Wolfpack close out the regular season at Miami on Saturday.
"It was a great win against a good ball club," NCSU coach Sidney Lowe said. "It says something of where we are and how we've improved. I couldn't have written a better script with the win and having Ben end the game by knocking down those free throws. Our guys were conscious of giving them a good final game and they played hard."
McCauley scored a team-high 20 points on 7 of 12 shooting from the field and he added six rebounds and two assists in 29 minutes played. He took on the leadership role when classmate Fells went down with a game-ending groin injury 1:05 into the second half.
Fells had a big first half with 11 points after going 3 of 3 from three-point range to help NC State take a 43-34 first-half lead.
"Ben and Courtney were ready to play," Lowe said. "They realized it was their last game here at home, and they wanted to go out on top. I'm glad we won this game for those guys."
NC State took control with a mini 8-3 spurt to build a 69-61 lead with 2:20 left. BC managed only three points during a stretch that last 5:31 during that run.
NCSU sophomore power forward Tracy Smith started the spurt with two free throws, and then McCauley split a pair. From there, sophomore point guard Javier Gonzalez became the catalyst for the Wolfpack.
Gonalez knifed to the basket, absorbed contact and still hit a big a layup to give NC State a 66-58 lead with 4:03 left. BC star point guard Tyrese Rice followed with a costly turnover and momentum was switching to NC State.
"Javi did a great job even when Rice was spinning around him," Lowe said. "Our zone slowed their team up a little. Javi played great with a lot of energy and passion. He made great plays and helped us run our defense how I wanted."
BC sophomore wing Rakim Sanders hit a big three-pointer to cut the lead to 66-61, but the Wolfpack showed their mental toughness with junior forward Dennis Horner answering with a three-pointer of his own.
BC's last-ditch effort revolved around the hot three-point shooting of Sanders, who connected on two more from beyond the arc to cut the lead to 71-67 with a minute remaining.
Gonzalez missed the front end of a one-and-one at the free-throw line, opening the door for Boston College to possibly steal the game.
Joe Trapani hit a pair of free throw to help the Eagles cut the lead to 71-69 with 27 seconds left. NCSU freshman C.J. Williams was quickly fouled, and he split a pair of free throws to extend the Pack's lead to 72-69.
NC State played Boston College straight up and Rice badly missed a three-pointer, but the Eagles grabbed the offensive rebound. Rather than allowing Boston College another chance to tie the game, NC State decided to foul the Eagles' players.
Sanders was fouled with five seconds left, and missed the front end of a one-and-one, which McCauley grabbed, setting off a celebration among the 15,111 fans in attendance for the last regular season home game.
Gonzalez continued his steady play of late with five points, six assists, five rebounds and only one turnover. Smith added 14 points and five rebounds, and Horner came off the bench for 11 points and five rebounds, including going 3 of 5 from three-point land.
Sanders finished with a game-high 21 points after knocking down 4 of 7 three-pointers, Rice had 14 points and 10 assists and Trapani added 11.
Boston College fell to 20-10 overall and 8-7 in the ACC, and close out the regular season with a home game against Georgia Tech.
"Whenever we got close, I think we got anxious instead of showing patience," BC coach Al Skinner said. "We never got over the hump. We got close, but never got over. It's the small things that we've got to follow through with, particularly on the road."