ATLANTA — NC State started strong and finished with some flair in pulling away from Boston College in the first round of the ACC Tournament.
NCSU junior small forward Scott Wood led four players in double figures with 22 points and five three-pointers to help the Wolfpack win 78-57 on Thursday at Philips Arena. NC State improved to 21-11 overall and advanced to play No. 4-seeded Virginia at approximately 2 p.m. Friday.
NC State has been looking forward to getting a rematch against UVa, who won 61-60 on Jan. 28 at the RBC Center in Raleigh. NCSU had a chance to win it on the last possession, but struggled to get a quality look at the basket leading to sophomore point guard Lorenzo Brown launching an errant three-pointer.
"That last game was a tough loss for us, but I think we are going to come in here with a different type of attitude, and play our hearts out," Brown said.
Virginia is more than likely already in the NCAA Tournament, but is playing for seeding. NC State's future could lead to a variety of different avenues.
"For us, the answer is to continue to win," NC State coach Mark Gottfried said. "I don't know if that's one game, two games, three games, but I know if we win this tournament, we get to go. That is our goal, to win the tournament."
NC State needed to take care of business first against freshmen-dominated Boston College. The Wolfpack jumped out to a 14-0 lead before the Eagles cracked the scoreboard with 12:36 left in the first half.
Wood set the tone with eight points on a pair of three-pointers and he beat the shot clock for a short jumper. He also mixed in a block and steal during the same sequence in action to spark NC State.
"I thought early in the game defensively, we were terrific," Gottfried said.
Wood added three straight free throws after getting fouled on a three-point attempt to stretch NC State's lead to 23-6 with 8:34 left in the first half. The youthful Eagles, who played six freshmen Thursday, finally found their footing.
Freshman wing Patrick Heckmann connected on a rare four-point play, and freshman shooting guard Lonnie Jackson eventually added two three-pointers to pull Boston College within 32-24 with 1:51 left in the half.
NC State turned to its defense to finish the half strong. Brown stripped BC freshman point guard Jordan Daniels and went in for a layup and was fouled (he missed the free throw). Daniels then threw the ball away and the turnover led to NC State senior wing C.J. Williams draining a long three-pointer at the halftime buzzer to give the Wolfpack a 37-24 lead and momentum.
"I saw that the point guard turned his head and looked at his coach, and he forgot that I was right there," Brown said.
Gottfried thought his team was starting to teeter in the wrong direction prior to the strong first-half finish.
"That turned the momentum and gave us back a lead, and got our gap up there where we were a little more comfortable," Gottfried said. "That was really good for our team to end the half that way."
NC State clung to its double-digit lead for a little over four minutes into the second half, but Boston College started to slowly but methodically make its run.
Daniels drained a three-pointer to cut the lead to 43-35 with 15:45 left in the game, and then freshman power forward Ryan Anderson made a layup and was fouled, but missed the free throw, and the Eagles were within striking distance at 43-37 with 14:47 left in the game.
Wood responded yet again with a pair of three-pointers to carry the NC State offense and return to a double-digit lead, 51-41.
Boston College's last gasp resulted in Daniels cutting the lead to 52-45 with a layup, but the Wolfpack collected themselves and finished the last 8-plus minutes strong.
"I don't think we lost focus, but I think they started and hit some tough shots," Brown said.
NCSU went on a 6-0 run highlighted by sophomore power forward C.J. Leslie's spectacular dunk and Wood adding a fastbreak layup to give the Pack a 64-49 lead with 5:36 remaining. Boston College never cut the lead to single digits again.
NC State was able to empty its bench for the last 70 seconds, allowing freshman shooting guard Jaqawn Raymond to drain a three-pointer in his home state and freshman power forward Thomas De Thaey to finish with a tip dunk to stretch the lead to the final score.
Wood had a rough five-game slump, but has responded by going 13 of 26 from three-point land his last three games.
"For any player, once you see a couple go in, you start to get that confidence," Wood said.
NC State finished with a 43-35 rebounding advantage, including plus six on the offensive boards, and took advantage of Boston College's 19 turnovers. NC State outscored BC 31-4 in fast break points and 20-11 on points off turnovers.
Brown finished with 12 points, eight assists and five steals in his return trip to his home area of Roswell, Ga. Marietta native Richard Howell added nine points and 12 boards in his home state. Leslie added another double-double with 11 points and 11 rebounds, and junior center DeShawn Painter chipped in 10 points off the bench.
Gottfried wished his team had a little more killer instinct in putting away teams, but he'll take any kind of tournament win.
"We are happy, but at the same time, I feel we can play a lot better," Gottfried said. "We got the lead and I think we took our foot off the gas pedal. We didn't have that same energy level for about the 7-8-minute mark of the first half for a long time. We can play better."
Anderson led Boston College with 15 of his team-high 22 points in the second half, to go along with 12 rebounds, and Jackson had 10 points for the Eagles. BC shot just 38.6 percent from the field (22 of 57), and went 7 of 23 from three-point land for 30.4 percent.
Boston College coach Steve Donahue was disappointed in falling behind by 17 early, but liked how his squad battled back. The Eagles don't have a senior on the roster.
"I think in two years, if the guys do what they should do, and we add pieces, I think we will look back on this as an unbelievable opportunity that these guys had, and that we will be that much better for it, if we utilize it properly," Donahue said.