N.C. State boosts NCAA chances by beating Virginia

On a four-game losing streak less than two weeks ago, N.C. State now is on a four-game winning streak — a turnabout that the Wolfpack hopes has impressed the NCAA tournament selection committee.

N.C. State defeated Virginia 67-64 in an ACC tournament quarterfinal Friday afternoon at Philips Arena, and afterward Wolfpack coach Mark Gottfried said it should be enough to put his team in the next tournament.

“I think we deserve to play in the NCAA tournament,” Gottfried said.

N.C. State (22-11) defeated Virginia (22-9) behind a 19-point, 14-rebound performance by forward C.J. Leslie.

“He really took it to us today,” said Virginia forward Mike Scott, who led the Cavaliers with 23 points.

N.C. State, the tournament’s No. 5 seed, moves on to face No. 1-seed North Carolina in the semifinals Saturday.

The Wolfpack led No. 4-seed Virginia 65-62 with 12 seconds to play when Cavaliers guard Joe Harris attempted to tie the score with a long 3-pointer from the wing. But the shot bounced off the front of the rim, and two free throws by N.C. State’s Lorenzo Brown five seconds later clinched the victory.

N.C. State’s team came to Atlanta figuring it needed to put together at least two wins to have a shot at the NCAA tournament. The Wolfpack, which snapped out of its four-game losing streak in time to close the regular season with back-to-back wins over Miami and Virginia Tech, defeated Boston College in an opening-round game Thursday.

“People say, ‘Well, you had a four-game losing streak,’” said Gottfried, anticipating an argument against his team’s NCAA tournament credentials. He countered that the losing streak should be examined more closely: “Duke on the road, Florida State 36 hours after that, then North Carolina, and then at Clemson we were in a position to win.”

Virginia, meanwhile, was believed to be in good shape for an NCAA tournament berth when the Cavaliers arrived here, and perhaps that remains the case. But the loss to N.C. State could mean some uncertainty for the Cavaliers until the bracket is unveiled Sunday night.

“Hopefully we have shown enough and will be one of the fortunate ones chosen,” Virginia coach Tony Bennett said.

All five of Virginia’s starters played at least 34 minutes Friday, with four of them playing 37 minutes or more.

A key moment in the game came with 0.4 seconds left in the first half when N.C. State’s Scott Wood made a 3-pointer, was fouled on the shot and made the free throw — a four-point play that allowed the Wolfpack to lead by three (36-33) at intermission.

“Scott’s shot gave us some pep in the step going to the locker room, which we didn’t have,” Gottfried said.