ACC women: Carolina, State victorious
GREENSBORO ó Italee Lucas scored 14 points and No. 19 North Carolina snapped a four-game losing streak by beating Clemson 78-64 on Thursday in the first round of the Atlantic Coast Conference womenís basketball tournament.
Fellow guard Cetera DeGraffenreid was a factor at both ends of the floor, finishing with 11 points, eight assists and six steals for the sixth-seeded Tar Heels (23-7), who turned the Tigersí mistakes into easy points all night long.
Chay Shegog and Jessica Breland added 11 points apiece for North Carolina, which opened the game with a 17-4 run and used another big burst that bridged the halves to build a big lead.
N.C. State 71, Bos. Coll. 70
GREENSBORO ó Brittany Strachan hit two free throws with 14.3 seconds left to help the N.C. State beat Boston College 71-70 on Thursday night in the tournamentís first round.
Bonae Holston had 21 points and nine rebounds as the 10th-seeded Wolfpack (14-16) rallied from a 14-point deficit in the second half before surviving a frantic finish to advance.
Marissa Kastanek added 15 points despite a poor shooting day to help N.C. State earn a trip to Fridayís quarterfinals to face 10th-ranked Miami, the tournamentís No. 2 seed.
Last year, N.C. State was a No. 6 seed that pushed to the final, which included a semifinal win against Boston College that seemed eerily similar to Thursdayís game. This time, Harperís bunch is hanging around Greensboro another day despite shooting poorly early and falling behind big to the seventh-seeded Eagles (18-12).
ěI would love it if Cinderella wore red heels,î Harper said. ěI hope our kids have some confidence. They should. I donít think thereís another team in the league thatís been tested like this team has been tested this season. Thatís what weíre going on.î
It didnít seem the Wolfpack would be able to duplicate that magic this time around after limping through injuries and a series of morale-crushing close losses. There was a two-point home loss to Clemson in January in which Holston missed a shot for the lead with about 10 seconds left and Kastanek missed the front end of a one-and-one with a chance to tie.
About two weeks later, N.C. State blew a 20-point second-half lead on then-unbeaten Duke and missed two shots on a frantic final play in a 65-64 loss. Then came a four-overtime loss to Virginia on a last-second shot in February.
This one seemed poised to be just as painful, with the Wolfpack fumbling away a four-point lead with about a minute left. Stefanie Murphy hit a 3-pointer to cut the deficit to 69-68, then Kerri Shields stole the ball from Amber White, who fouled Shields on the steal with 25.8 seconds left. Shields made both free throws for the 70-69 lead, but Strachan rebounded a missed shot from Holston in traffic and was fouled.
After Strachan put N.C. State back in front, Murphy missed two hurried shots for the win on the final play before the horn sounded and sent the Wolfpack players running back to the bench to celebrate.
ěIt was the best feeling ever to know our defense really won the game for us,î said White, who had 14 points.
Throughout that sequence, Harper had a thought rolling through her mind.
ěItís got to go our way this time,î she said. ěSurely this team deserves a break and our opponentsí shot fell all season long in that situation.î
It was a painfully familiar finish for the Eagles, who led N.C. State by 10 points midway through the second half of last yearís semifinal game before the Wolfpack rallied with a 15-0 run. N.C. State went ahead to stay in that game with 1:23 left in a 63-57 win.
This time, Boston College led 55-41 with 12:19 left, but the Wolfpack ran off a 14-0 run to climb back in it. Strachan (11 points) hit two 3-pointers from in front of the N.C. State bench during the run, which ended when Kastanek hit four straight free throws to tie it at 55 with 8:57 left.
Carolyn Swords had 27 points and 12 rebounds to lead the Eagles, who took a 39-35 rebounding advantage and a 42-10 edge in points in the paint. But N.C. State almost doubled bigger BC on the offensive glass (16-9) and took a 22-6 edge in second-chance points to hang in the game.
The Eagles also committed 25 turnovers, many coming when N.C. State relied on a fullcourt press to get back in it.
ěN.C. State is still a very aggressive team that keeps fighting and pushing through the second half,î Swords said. ěThey did a really great job of coming back and really securing the win.î
The Associated Press