Boston College did such a good job defending Cat Barber on the last play of Wednesday’s game, not even Barber was sure what N.C. State was supposed to do when he couldn’t get open.
“The play was designed for me,” Barber said. “I don’t even know if there was another option.”
There was, and freshman Maverick Rowan made a buzzer-beating layup to give the Wolfpack a dramatic 73-72 win over the last-place Eagles.
With 1.1 seconds left, and N.C. State (15-15, 5-12 ACC) with the ball under its own basket, Caleb Martin tried and tried to wait for Barber, who scored a game-high 24 points, to shake free of Boston College guard Jerome Robinson.
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Barber couldn’t, but Rowan, who scored all 13 of his points in the second half, was able to sneak open — maybe with some extra help — and make a quick, hot-potato layup.
“I pushed off a little bit,” Rowan said. “But Caleb made a great pass and I finished at the end. I’m happy we pulled it out.”
There was a definite sense of relief when Rowan’s shot went in and then again when the officials conferred and ruled Rowan’s shot beat the clock.
“Let’s face it, they ain’t won one in the league,” N.C. State coach Mark Gottfried said. “If you don’t score with 1.1 second to go, this is a tough night, a real tough night.”
The Eagles, the first team in ACC history to be 0-17, led by 13 points in the first half and led by seven with 4:45 left in the game.
Gottfried burned through timeouts in the first half as Boston College went on a 33 to 13 run to go up 33-20 at the 3:49 mark in the first half.
“We weren’t playing very well at all,” Gottfried said. “We’d come out of a foul shot and we’d run down the floor and we’d have no idea who we’re guarding.
“You know, things you learn how to do in fifth grade. There’s only five of them and five of us, it’s not like they’re hiding somewhere.”
The Eagles, who entered the game ranked No. 306 in field goal percentage, made 51.7 percent of their shots (15 of 29) in the first half.
Senior forward Dennis Clifford had 10 of his 18 points in the first half and Robinson, who’s from Raleigh and was on the same high school team at Broughton as one of Gottfried’s sons, had eight points as the Eagles took a 35-31 lead into the break.
N.C. State had the game tied at 57 and 60 until the Eagles went on a mini-run. A pair of free throws by Eli Carter gave Boston College a 67-60 lead.
A 3-pointer by Martin and another by Rowan tightened the game up. N.C. State didn’t take its first lead of the second half until Rowan made a 3 with 2:24 to play to put the Wolfpack up 69-67.
The Eagles took a 72-71 lead after a free throw by Robinson with 17.2 seconds left.
N.C. State had two chances to take the lead in the final seconds, but Rowan missed a 3. Barber got the rebound but missed a hurried 3. The ball went out of bounds with 1.1 seconds left to set the final stage.
Barber, the ACC’s leading scorer, thought it was going to be his game to win or lose. That’s how it was designed. Martin was able to improvise.
“(Caleb) looked for something else, that’s what he’s supposed to do,” Barber said. “He’s not supposed to force it.”
N.C. State is happy that he did, but for Boston College it was the toughest loss in a season full of them.
Giglio: 919-829-8938, @jwgiglio