CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. — Boston College started the week at No. 229 in the Rating Percentage Index, one spot ahead of Savannah State and one behind Lafayette.
That's not the kind of company N.C. State can afford to keep if it wants to end its season in the four-letter postseason tournament instead of the three-letter one. Scott Wood and C.J. Leslie saved the Wolfpack from an RPI-crushing loss on Wednesday - and string of other four-letter words from a portion of its fan base.
Wood (16 points) and Leslie (13) lifted N.C. State to an aesthetically-challenged 56-51 ACC win, in name only, over the Eagles.
"We didn't play particularly great," Wolfpack coach Mark Gottfried said. "But what I liked, even on a night when we struggled to score, we still found a way to win."
In front of a sparsely populated Conte Forum - in a city with Super Bowl fever or Stanley Cup fever or anything-but-college-basketball fever - Eagles coach Steve Donahue squeezed every ounce of effort out of his willing team which fell to 7-15 and 2-6 in the conference.
Matt Humphrey hustled for 15 points and the Eagles generally discombobulated a Wolfpack offense which struggled from the floor (9 of 27) in the first half and struggled to string together two passes early in the second half.
It wasn't until Leslie scored four straight points, after BC tied the game at 44, that State took control of the game. Leslie hit a foul-line jumper and then on the next trip converted both of his free throws at 3:57 for a 48-44 advantage.
After going 2 of 9 in the first half, Leslie made all three of his field goals in the second half.
"I missed some easy ones and I had to pick it up," Leslie said.
He did, as did Wood, who scored 10 points in the second half and helped State shoot 55.6 percent in the second half (10 of 18).
Wood sunk all five of his free throws, pushing his ACC-record streak to 63 in a row. Four of Wood's free throws came in the final 98 seconds.
"I'm bound to miss one eventually, that's the way I'm looking at it," said Wood, who improved to 53 of 53 from the line this season.
He hasn't yet. Humphrey made a 3-pointer with 4.8 seconds left to cut N.C. State's lead to 54-51 left but Lorenzo Brown (game-high seven assists) made both free throws to ice the game.
N.C. State led 25-23 at the half, despite its shooting problems. The game didn't look anything like N.C. State's relatively easy 76-62 win over the Eagles in Raleigh on Jan. 19.
"We knew that they didn't play very well in Raleigh," Wood said. "We knew they would bring their 'A' game and they did."
The Pack is in the middle of a stretch of games against the bottom of the conference with Wake Forest next (on Saturday) and a trip to Georgia Tech (on Feb. 9). These games, against teams behind them in the RPI, can't help their NCAA chances but they can hurt them.
N.C. State avoided the worst-case scenario on Wednesday and heads back to Raleigh with a 5-3 conference record.
"In this league, you can knocked off by anybody," Wood said. "We just have to keep going and get better."