RALEIGH — Scott Wood didnt so much as crack a smile after his 3-pointer with 1 second left lifted N.C. State to a win at Clemson last Sunday. The senior guard barely even blinked.
The meaning of the win, which moved the Wolfpack to 6-5 in the ACC and into fourth place, registered with Wood, he just didnt show the joy on his face, or any emotion for that matter.
Im just glad we won, Wood said. We needed it, it would have been four (losses) in a row if it didnt go in.
Instead of grappling with the anxiety and panic of a four-game losing streak, which N.C. State was able to overcome last February, a renewed Wolfpack prepares for the last seven ACC games of the season with some confidence and a sense that the worst could be behind them.
State (17-7) faces last-place Virginia Tech today (2 p.m., ESPN2) at PNC Arena, where it will play three of its next four games. N.C. State coach Mark Gottfried even gave his players an extra day off after the Clemson win, as a break for the previous stretch and for whats still to come.
I felt like our team needed that, Gottfried said. Mentally and physically taking an extra day was the right thing to do for us.
The first 11 ACC games have been a grinder for the Wolfpack, which has seen its national ranking drop from No. 6 to others receiving votes and its preseason ACC goals all but evaporate.
State lost by one point to Maryland and Miami, two to Wake Forest and three to Virginia. Wood missed potential winning or tying shots in the final moments of three of those games. That was part of the reason for Woods stone-cold reaction after he delivered the stomach punch to Clemson.
Ive lost too many games on a last-second shot, Wood said. Ive been taught, youre expected to make the big shot.
Gottfried has preached all season that every ACC game counts the same but even he thought the comeback the Pack trailed by as many as 12 against the Tigers and the way State won a close game had added significance.
I do think it changes how you feel about yourself, Gottfried said. We had lost some close, tough games (with) some gut-wrenching finishes.
The Wolfpack also got point guard Lorenzo Brown back against Clemson, after he missed two and a half games with an ankle injury. Gottfried gave the players off on both Monday (because the NCAA says so) and Tuesday (a reward from the coach).
Brown said the extra time helped with his left ankle, which is still swollen and not quite 100 percent, but also to refocus the team.
I think were going to get back on track, Brown said. I dont want to lose any more games. I dont care how we do it, just as long as we win.
The ACC regular-season title, with Miami (11-0) five games in front, is probably out of the picture, Brown conceded, but theres still a lot of basketball left.
Gottfried wants his team to be at its best in March. There have been bumps in the first four months, and more losses than expected, but the coach said his team understands whats still on the table.
They know we need to play our best basketball, Gottfried said. Thats the goal for us.