Hurricanes topple Pack, earn first ACC title berth
N.C. State’s only regular-season game with Miami left the Wolfpack with a heartbreaking, last-second loss.
The Hurricanes quickly took the suspense out of Saturday’s rematch in the ACC Tournament semifinals.
Behind Durand Scott’s 32 points, No. 9 Miami never trailed in an 81-71 win over N.C. State at the Greensboro Coliseum.
The Hurricanes (26-6), who won the regular-season title to claim the tournament’s top seed, advance to their first ACC Tournament final in school history. They’ll face North Carolina today (1 p.m., WRAL/ESPN).
“I think for these guys, they’ve earned the right to play in the championship game by how well they’ve played in this tournament,” Miami coach Jim Larranaga said. “The tournament is a separate entity. We did a terrific job (Friday) of moving on to the semifinals, and we did a great job (Saturday) of moving to the finals.”
Fifth-seeded N.C. State (24-10) longed to face Miami in the tournament after the Hurricanes won 79-78 in Raleigh on Feb. 2 thanks to a tip-in by Reggie Johnson with 0.8 seconds to play.
But the Wolfpack’s slow start offensively and mostly ineffective defense doomed them to another loss.
Miami scored the game’s first five points, as the Wolfpack went scoreless until a Richard Howell basket a little more than five minutes into the game.
Over the game’s first 10 minutes, N.C. State made just 2 of 11 field goals and turned the ball over five times to trail 16-5.
“We had a day that we hadn’t had a lot of, but we had a day where, offensively, we seemed to struggle,” N.C. State coach Mark Gottfried said. “It was an uphill climb in the first half, and we just couldn’t seem to take advantage of an opportunity.”
Scott made the Wolfpack pay.
The senior guard scored 14 points early as the Hurricanes built a 19-8 lead. Miami’s lead grew as large as 39-20 before N.C. State climbed back to trail 41-29 at intermission.
Scott, who made five 3-pointers Saturday, had 19 of his 32 points in the first half.
“I think, at the start, I just didn’t do a good enough job of pressuring him,” N.C. State senior guard Scott Wood said. “We let him kind of get in his comfort zone and anytime for any player, once they see a couple shots do down, they’re tough to guard.”
Shane Larkin damaged the Wolfpack as well with 23 points, and he combined with Scott to make 6 of 12 shot from 3-point range.
“I’m grateful to have a teammate like Shane Larkin next to me who makes the game easier for me,” Scott said. “I just feed off him and, hopefully, he feeds off me and going to the game every night, we don’t try to worry about everything.”
N.C. State wound up shooting 50 percent for the game, but its 9-of-22 shooting in the first half put it in a deep hole.
“We didn’t come out with the energy we expected, but that happens all the time,” N.C. State guard Lorenzo Brown said. “We just have to get through it.’
In the second half, the Wolfpack heated up to shoot 57 percent and made one significant run to dent Miami’s lead.
Freshmen T.J. Warren (three field goals) and Rodney Purvis (two) ignited N.C. State’s offense over the first eight minutes after halftime. When Wood sank a 3-pointer with 12:02 left in the game, N.C. State trailed 50-44 and the large number of Wolfpack fans in the crowd of 22,169 cheered loudly.
But Scott led another Miami scoring spurt to help the Hurricanes pull away for good. Scott answered Wood’s 3-pointer with one of his own, and after Warren missed a 3-point attempt, Larkin scored in the lane on a bank shot for a 55-44 Miami lead.
After C.J. Leslie and Johnson traded free throws, Scott’s basket with 8:35 gave the Hurricanes a 58-45 lead.
N.C. State never drew closer than eight points the rest of the game.
“We are a poised team,” Larkin said, “and after we get out of the huddle after every timeout, Coach always says, ‘Stay poised down the stretch.’ They had a lot of fans there, so the arena was loud and we could have easily broken down and started yelling and not stay poised, but we stayed together as a team and we pulled it out.”
Miami 81, N.C. State 71
Percentages: FG .500, FT .560. 3-Point Goals: 7-16, .438 (Wood 6-10, T. Lewis 1-1, Warren 0-1, Brown 0-4). Team Rebounds: 2. Blocked Shots: 5 (Howell 2, Warren 2, Brown). Turnovers: 14 (Brown 5, Howell 3, Leslie 3, Purvis, T. Lewis, Warren). Steals: 10 (Brown 4, Leslie 2, Warren 2, Purvis, Howell).
Percentages: FG .456, FT .767. 3-Point Goals: 6-20, .300 (Scott 5-8, Larkin 1-4, Brown 0-1, McKinney Jones 0-2, Kadji 0-5). Team Rebounds: 2. Blocked Shots: 4 (Kadji 2, Gamble 2). Turnovers: 11 (Johnson 3, Scott 3, Larkin 3, Brown, Kadji). Steals: 6 (Larkin 3, Scott 2, Kadji).
Officials—Tim Nestor, Jamie Luckie, Les Jones.