BLACKSBURG, Va. (AP) — Early March is the time of year when a lot of coaches are lobbying for their teams to receive a bid to the NCAA Tournament.
North Carolina State coach Mark Gottfried made a pretty good case for his bunch on Sunday night.
Scott Wood scored 19 points to lead the Wolfpack past Virginia Tech 70-58, as N.C. State secured a winning mark in ACC play for the first time since 2005-06.
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N.C. State (20-11, 9-7 Atlantic Coast Conference), which snapped a four-game skid to the Hokies and won 20 games in the regular season for the first time since 2005-06, also got 18 points from C.J. Leslie.
The Wolfpack clinched the No. 5 seed in the ACC tournament Thursday in Atlanta, where they will play No. 12 seed Boston College at 2:30 p.m.
“Every coach stands on their soapbox,” Gottfried said. “I hope we’re in the discussion, and if you look at what we did in the non-conference and who we played, our non-conference strength of schedule is as high as it is . we’ve done what the committee asks you to do. No question.
“We’ve got a lot going in our favor. Now we’ve got to go to Atlanta and keep putting ourselves in a better position. That’s what we need to do. That’s the plan for our team.”
In contrast, Virginia Tech (15-16, 4-12) lost its fourth straight and will be the No. 10 seed in the conference tournament. The Hokies will play No. 7 seed Clemson at 7 p.m. on Thursday.
N.C. State trailed early, but used a 16-2 run midway through the first half to take the lead for good. In the second half, the Hokies cut the Wolfpack lead to 51-47 on an Erick Green jumper with 10:30 remaining. Gottfried then switched his defense from man-to-man to a 2-3 zone as the Wolfpack went on an 11-0 run and never looked back.
“I contemplated it in the first half,” Gottfried said of the switch. “They’re pretty good off the dribble, and they’re hard to contain sometimes. We didn’t use it in the first half, but it was one of those things, `Have a hunch, bet a bunch.’ I felt like we were getting beat off the dribble, and I thought we’d take a look at it for a trip or two and see what happens.”
Wood hit 5 of 11 from the floor, including three 3-pointers, and made all six of his free-throw attempts. Leslie finished with 18 points, hitting 7 of 9 from the floor, as the Wolfpack shot 51.1 percent (23 of 45). He also grabbed 11 rebounds, leading the Wolfpack to a 40-25 advantage on the glass.
“I think these past seven or eight games, he’s played as good as anyone in this league,” Gottfried said. “He has risen up to another level. I’m really proud of him. He’s been really good.”
Cadarian Raines scored 15 points for the Hokies, who shot just 36.7 percent (22 of 60).
“It’s just disappointing,” Virginia Tech coach Seth Greenberg said. “I don’t know if our emotional gas tank was on empty after three straight weeks of playing every single possession to the last play of the game. I hope that’s what it was. I don’t know if we were due one of these, but I know we’ve got a small margin of error. We just didn’t play well.
“They’re a tough matchup. Leslie is a tough matchup for us. You’ve got to give them credit. They played well, and we didn’t play well.”