It wasn’t in the cards from the opening tip for the Wolfpack today, as the Miami Hurricanes defeated the Wolfpack 81-71 in the ACC Tournament Semifinals in Greensboro. State got off to a very sluggish start — not getting off of the blocks scoring-wise until 5:25 had ticked off of the clock — and they never fully recovered from that initial drought. That was probably due to having a short bench and their third game in as many days, as the Pack looked like a group with tired legs playing against a top ten team looking to grab its first ACC hoops title.
While there are no real moral victories in tournament play, State has little to be ashamed of in this game today. Their mental intensity was there, the defensive effort was not lacking, and they did win the second half 42-40. In fact, the Wolfpack trimmed the Miami lead down to six midway through the second stanza, but just didn’t have the air to climb up the last bit of the mountain the first half left them to climb. In that woeful first twenty minutes, State missed its first five shots from the field, and committed three turnovers. Their first points came at the 14:35 mark when senior Richard Howell finally put the ball in the net, but by then Miami was almost at full sail and the Pack could never quite track them down.
Credit Miami’s defensive plan, as CJ Leslie was stymied much of the game by the Hurricanes, and by their own rebounding intensity. Miami is a team with great size, depth and speed, and it seemed like every Wolfpack parry was answered with a flurry of Hurricane baskets that put to rest the question of who’d be playing on Sunday for the ACC Championship. Durand Scott of the Hurricanes was the ‘Canes MVP, tossing in 32 points and making 5 of his 8 attempts from beyond the three point arc. Shane Larkin also had a decent day against State, canning 23 points, mostly from the free throw line.
For State, it’s now up to the NCAA Selection Committee as to where and who their next game will be. The Wolfpack is a certain at-large pick, but their seeding is very much in question — some have them as high as a ten seed in the Field of 64, while other prognosticators see NC State as a 7th or 8th seed in their Regional brackets. That position will leave the Pack with a gargantuan task if it wants to earn a Final Four berth. No matter what, however, to get to Atlanta, one will have to defeat the big dogs in the Dance sooner or later, and for State, that task may be at hand as soon as the weekend should it win its first round game.