BOSTON – After a woeful performance from the free-throw line in the first half, No. 23 N.C. State found its touch in the second half and needed almost every one to avoid being upset by Boston College.
The Wolfpack went 21-for-24 from the line after the break, making its final 15 and holding off the Eagles, 78-73, on Saturday, extending N.C. State’s winning streak to eight straight in its Atlantic Coast Conference opener.
Scott Wood hit a pair of 3-pointers and was perfect on all six of his free throws, all in final four minutes as the Wolfpack (12-2, 1-0) beat Boston College (8-6, 0-1) for the fifth straight time.
“We didn’t play our best basketball, but at the same time, we were fortunate enough to get the win,” Wood said.
Very fortunate, indeed.
N.C. State led, 74-71, after Wood made two free throws with 27 seconds to play, but the Wolfpack gave the Eagles a wonderful opportunity to tie it eight seconds later when Rodney Purvis fouled Patrick Heckmann on a 3-point attempt.
Heckmann, a 93-percent foul shooter coming in, hit 2 of 3 and the Eagles were forced to foul Wood two more times in the final 17 seconds. Wood calmly hit four more to seal the victory.
“I honestly think I have more confidence in him than he does,” said Purvis, a freshman who led the Wolfpack with a career-best 19 points. “Any shot Scott shots is a good shot no matter what – no matter who guards him or anything.”
Richard Howell finished with 12 points and 11 rebounds, Lorenzo Brown had 14 points and eight assists and C.J. Leslie scored 10 as all of N.C. State’s starters scored in double figures.
The Wolfpack are on its longest winning streak since it was the defending national champions, but only after giving the Eagles several opportunities to pull off an upset.
“I thought we did a lot of things really well in terms of things we needed to do to win the game,” Eagles coach Steve Donahue said. “I thought we were tough and physical and we competed and took care of the basketball and fought through adversity with foul trouble.”
Boston College (8-6, 0-1) missed a chance to tie when Purvis fouled Patrick Heckmann on a 3-point attempt with 18.9 seconds left. Heckmann, a 93 percent shooter from the line coming in, made 2-of-3 and the Eagles were forced to foul Wood two more times.
Wood made four more free throws to seal it.
“We were our own worst enemy today and I’m not taking anything away from them,” N.C. State coach Mark Gottfried said. “We fouled a 3-point shooter, we missed the front ends of 1-and-1s, we had defensive lapses. It’s a laundry list of things where we felt like we just hurt ourselves.”
Ryan Anderson had 22 points and 13 rebounds for Boston College, which had won five straight.
The Eagles led by as many as six points midway through the second half, but the Wolfpack came through with a late rally and overcame their own mistakes to win their fifth straight against the Eagles.
And there were plenty of mistakes.
The teams combined for 44 fouls and took 36 free throws in the second half alone. In the end, the Eagles faltered more from the line than the Wolfpack did.
The back-and-forth fouling continued throughout the second half as did the streaky foul shooting.
Anderson hit a free throw to it for Boston College at 59-all, but missed on his second attempt. Lonnie Jackson was there for the rebound and his tip allowed the Eagles to maintain possession. Jackson made his save count with a 3-pointer, but Purvis answered from beyond the arc to tie it again at 62.
N.C. State finally regained the lead for good when Wood, who had been 0-for-2 in the first half, hit from beyond the arc and put N.C. State up 67-64.
Wood had missed more than nine minutes after getting called for his fourth foul early in the second half, then scored all but two of N.C. State’s final 14 points.
He had been on the bench for more than nine minutes after he was called for his fourth foul with 14:33 left in the game.
“He was clutch,” Gottfried said. “He came off the bench and he hadn’t played a lot of minutes for a long stretch and stepped up and made some big shots and obviously made foul shots.”
Joe Rahon, who had 18 points, had a chance to retake the lead late for BC, but missed everything on a turnaround jumper in the lane and the Wolfpack got the rebound, calling time out with 1:01 left and still up 69-68. Wood hit another 3-pointer to put N.C. State up 72-68, but the Eagles weren’t quite done.
Anderson drew a foul while dunking a rebound and his three-point play drew BC to 72-71 with 27 seconds left. But the Eagles had to foul and picked Wood, who made all six of his attempts from the line.
N.C. State was 12 for 21 from the field in the first half, but the Wolfpack made just 4 of 11 foul shots and pulled down only one offensive rebound in the period. N.C. State still led 29-28 at halftime, thanks in part to the Eagles’ own struggles from the foul line.
BC made 9 of 15 free throws in the first half.