No. 9 Miami beats NC State 81-71 in ACC semifinals
GREENSBORO, N.C. (AP) — Durand Scott knocked down the shots to turn away North Carolina State’s best pushes, and Shane Larkin provided the steady floor leadership that kept ninth-ranked Miami in control.
The backcourt that guided the Hurricanes to their first Atlantic Coast Conference regular-season championship now has them positioned to add the tournament title, too.
Scott scored a career-high 32 points to help the Hurricanes beat the Wolfpack 81-71 on Saturday in the ACC semifinals, earning the program’s first trip to the final.
Larkin added 23 for the top-seeded Hurricanes (26-6), who before Saturday had reached the ACC semifinals just once before — as a No. 12 seed making a surprise run before falling to eventual national champion Duke in 2010. Now they’re heading to Sunday’s final to face third-seeded North Carolina, which beat Maryland in the other semifinal.
“We’re a very hungry team, and we want more and more,” Larkin said. “We’re not satisfied with winning the regular season. We want the ACC championship, and then eventually we want to make the national championship game. We’re hungry, and we’re not going to settle for anything less.”
Miami led all day and by 19 points late in the first half against the fifth-seeded Wolfpack (24-10), who got within six after halftime but couldn’t dig out of that big hole.
Scott had a lot to do with that. The senior guard went 12 for 18 from the field and 5 for 8 from 3-point range to keep draining the energy from a home-state crowd wearing plenty of red.
Scott scored 21 points on 10-for-15 shooting as a freshman in the 2010 semifinal loss to the Blue Devils, then turned in an even bigger performance in the Greensboro Coliseum on Saturday.
“When I walk into this building, there’s a lot of security guards, a lot of media people, a lot of people that work for the ACC — I think they remember me,” Scott said. “They always come up to me like, ‘You remember this building and how (you did) your freshman year’ and things like that. ... But I just tell them that was the past. That game can’t win us the game today, yesterday or tomorrow. I’ve just got to go out there and do what I need to do for my team to win, and that’s what I did tonight.”
Scott scored 19 points in the first half, the last coming on two free throws for Miami’s biggest lead at 39-20. N.C. State cut the deficit to 12 at half then 50-44 on Scott Wood’s 3-pointer with 12 minutes left to re-energize a crowd that had gone silent with Miami’s early dominance.
But Scott answered with a straightaway 3, holding his release long after the ball swished through the net. Then Larkin banked in a pullup shot to push the margin back to double figures.
Scott did it again a few minutes later, hitting a 3 over freshman Rodney Purvis as the shot clock wound down then holding his form again as the Hurricanes went up 13 with 7½ minutes left. That was his last basket before fouling out with 1:53 left.
“I think at the start I didn’t do a good enough job of pressuring him,” Wood said. “I think we kind of let him kind of get in his comfort zone and ... for any player, once they see a couple of shots go down, they’re tough to guard.”
The Wolfpack twice more got the deficit to single digits in the final 2 minutes, but Larkin hit four straight free throws to answer those baskets then rebounded C.J. Leslie’s missed jumper that signaled an end to the Wolfpack’s run.
“I thought we turned it around in the second half,” N.C. State coach Mark Gottfried said. “But we were just in too big of a hole and they were pretty good as far as holding us off.”
Wood scored 21 points, hitting six 3s, to lead N.C. State, which was in the semifinals for the second straight season. But Gottfried’s team ran into a No. 1 seed each time that denied the Wolfpack a chance at the program’s first tournament title since 1987 under Jim Valvano.
Miami won the only regular-season meeting 79-78 on Reggie Johnson’s tip-in with 0.8 seconds left with point guard Lorenzo Brown out with an ankle injury.
Brown was back to drive the Wolfpack’s transition attack this time, but finished with six points on 0-for-6 shooting with five turnovers. N.C. State shot 57 percent after halftime and 50 percent for the game, but went scoreless for the first 5½ minutes to set a bad tone for the day.
Miami also controlled the boards to score 18 second-chance points to go with 15 points off turnovers.