(9) NC State (26-4, 13-4 ACC) defeated (22) Florida State (23-8, 11-7 ACC) 69-62 tonight in the quarterfinals of the ACC Tournament.
The game started out tight as neither team was able to maintain a large lead early. However, the Pack built a 10-4 lead after a pair of free throws from Elissa Cunane. FSU answered with an 8-2 run that was sparked by a triple from Kiah Gillespie. DD Rogers scored a layup to break the run and tie the score at 14. However, the Noles were able to go on another run, this time 8-1, to take a 22-15 lead. NC State answered with five quick points but Nicki Ekhomu nailed a pair of free throws to put FSU ahead 24-20 after the first quarter.
The Wolfpack started the second quarter strong with a 7-0 run. Nicki Ekhomu broke the run with a jumper and the Pack’s lead was cut to 27-26. After that there was no scoring at all for over three minutes until Aislinn Konig hit a triple for the Pack. She followed it up with another three ball to put NC State up 33-26. From there the teams traded layups and Nausia Woolfolk hit one of two free throws to end the half with the Wolves up 35-31.
The two teams started the third by trading baskets. With 8:22 left in the quarter Elissa Cunane grabbed a rebound. She swung her arms and elbowed Morgan Jones in the face. She was called for an offensive foul immediately and the officials went to the monitor and eventually determined that a technical foul should be added so FSU was awarded two shots and the ball. Ekhomu drained the free throws for the Noles to cut the Pack lead to 37-34. After that the two teams traded baskets until the Wolfpack made a move with about five minutes left in the period. NC State hit the Noles with a 10-0 run to end the third quarter and they took a 50-39 lead into the final stanza.
Woolfolk opened the fourth with a triple to get FSU back in the scoring column. The teams exchanged baskets until Florida State went on a 6-0 run that was sparked by a Woolfolk steal and then a transition layup by Morgan Jones. Kiara Leslie stopped the run with a jumper and the Pack was up 58-51. Leslie’s jumper sparked the Pack to a 7-2 run. Kourtney Weber broke the run with a triple but FSU was still down 63-56 with about a minute left. Ekhomu followed with another three to cut the lead to 63-59. Leslie followed with a pair of free throws but Ekhomu responded with another triple to cut the lead to 65-62 with 37 seconds left. At this point FSU was reduced to fouling and the Pack hit four straight free throws to ice the game.
Nicki Ekhomu was huge for FSU scoring 23 points (3-5 3PT, 8-8 FT) with five boards, four assists and a pair of steals. Nausia Woolfolk was the other Nole in double figures with 11 points. Kiah Gillespie just missed a double-double with eight points and 11 boards. Kourtney Weber had one of her best games hitting a pair of pressure threes and scoring six points.
FSU had serious trouble all night dealing with the Wolfpack’s size in the paint. The 6’1 DD Rogers (16pts, 10reb) and the 6’5 Elissa Cunane (22pts, 9reb) had their way too often down low. This problem was exacerbated for FSU because Valencia Myers was in foul trouble all game picking up her second foul (and leaving the game) with 7:15 left in the first quarter.
Defensively, this game was feast or famine for the Noles. They got several steals which led to easy transition buckets but they let the Pack shoot over 45% from the field and many of those points were layups down low.
Overall the Noles played relatively well but they simply couldn’t handle the size that NC State brought to the table especially with Myers being limited to only 17 minutes due to foul trouble.
FSU will return to Tallahassee to regroup while they await their NCAA Tournament destination. It is widely expected that the Seminoles will receive a six seed in the Tournament which will begin Friday, March 22nd. The NCAA Tournament Selection Show will be broadcast on Monday, March 18th.