ROCHESTER, N.Y. — N.C. State coach Mark Gottfried said before the Wolfpack's trip to upstate New York on Tuesday that he was "crazy" to schedule St. Bonaventure on the road.
Crazy? Maybe, but also happy and relieved after the Wolfpack escaped with a 67-65 win against a tough Atlantic 10 team. C.J. Leslie's shot with eight-tenths of a second left gave the Wolfpack its first road win of the season in wild fashion.
Leslie jumped and reeled in the full-court inbounds pass from C.J. Williams, kept his feet in bounds, and then sunk the winning shot over forward Andrew Nicholson.
"You have to have both parts: a great pass and a great catch," Gottfried said.
Leslie, who finished with 12 points, has been struggling with dehydration and cramp issues this season, sitting out key second-half stretches during losses to Vanderbilt, Stanford and Syracuse.
"I was happy that I made the shot," Leslie said, "but I was more happy that I was able to finish the game. I wanted to be able to play the whole game."
Leslie credited Williams with an excellent pass, which was away from the 6-foot-9 Nicholson and where only Leslie could get to it.
And Gottfried was impressed with Leslie's ability to catch the ball, stay in bounds and get off a good shot.
"He caught the ball and then had enough balance and wherewithal to get it up on the rim," Gottfried said.
While Leslie and Williams combined for the winning play, junior guard Scott Wood carried the Pack (7-4) in the second half. Wood finished with 20 points and a career-high six assists. Before Leslie's 6-footer, Wood had scored 13 of the Pack's 16 points to close out the Bonnies (5-5).
Guard Eric Mosley (15 points) gave the Wolfpack fits all game and tied the score at 65 with a pair of free throws with 3.1 seconds left. Mosley, Nicholson (16 points) and Demitrius Conger (16) kept Wood from putting the game out of reach.
Nicholson's free throws with 2 minutes, 27 seconds left gave the Bonnies a 60-59 advantage, but Wood answered with a 16-foot jumper at 2:08 and an assist to Williams to put State ahead 63-60.
Matthew Wright, after missing his first four 3-point attempts of the game, buried a 3 with 53.4 seconds left to tie the score.
Wood was fouled with 38.6 seconds and put State back up 65-63 with two more free throws. He made all eight of his free throws and has not missed in 25 attempts this season.
"Those are free points," Wood said. "It's the easiest shot in basketball, no one's guarding you."
But State guard Alex Johnson missed the front end of a one-and-one with 12.8 seconds left, giving the Bonnies one last chance. Mosley drove the lane and was fouled by Johnson with 3.1 seconds left to tie the score at 65.
That set the stage for Williams' full-court pass and Leslie's leaping catch and shot.
"You have to get lucky, but we do actually practice that play," Gottfried said.
The Bonnies made Gottfried look prophetic in the first half. They scored the first nine points and led 39-37 at the half. Johnson (nine points, seven assists) and Richard Howell (13 rebounds) got State back in the game after the slow start.
Gottfried wanted test like this for his first Wolfpack team. He wanted them to play a tough schedule and go on the road before ACC play.
State lost at Stanford on Dec. 4, its first road game of the season. That trip, like home games against Indiana and Syracuse, ended in defeat for the Pack after it couldn't play well in the final eight-minute stretch of the game. That was what pleased Gottfried the most Tuesday night.
"We got down but we didn't put our heads down and pout," Gottfried said. "For our group, we needed a game and I think it will make us better."