14-17, 4-10 Conf
27-3, 12-2 Conf

Hurricanes blow 19-point lead but hold on vs. Wolfpack

GREENSBORO, N.C. -- Miami's big lead slipped away. The ACC player of the year refused to let the victory escape.

Shenise Johnson had 25 points and 13 rebounds and the 10th-ranked Hurricanes lost a 19-point lead before regrouping to beat North Carolina State 93-85 in the quarterfinals of the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament on Friday night.

Riquna Williams added 22 points for the second-seeded Hurricanes (27-3), who reached the ACC semifinals for the first time and earned just their second league tournament victory since coming in from the Big East before the 2004-05 season.

"We worked our butts off for two years, and we haven't been able to come up with wins," said Johnson, a junior. "We're definitely more of a veteran team. The WNIT [championship game appearance] last year helped us, and we're really just coming on now. We know each other, and obviously you can tell."

Bonae Holston had 25 points and 11 rebounds for the 10th-seeded Wolfpack (14-17), who were trying to rally from a double-digit deficit for the second straight night. They tied it three times in the second half but never could regain the lead.

"The legacy that we want to leave is for the players to realize that you should never give up, no matter what you're going through as a team," senior forward Brittany Strachan said through tears. "Just know that if you keep fighting and you keep working hard, that good things will come to you. We don't ever want somebody to come into this program and give up -- even when you might be down by 30, down by 40, injuries, whatever you're going through."

Amber White scored 18 points and Strachan added 17 for NC State, which cut it to 78-77 on Kody Burke's free throw with 4:41 left. Williams hit a jumper in the lane about 20 seconds later to start the decisive 15-6 run.

"The biggest problem was during that [stretch], we made some turnovers and we did not get stops," NC State coach Kellie Harper said. "We had done a good job getting stops defensively and getting the rebound. Once we tied it, they scored. And we didn't have an answer for that."

Morgan Stroman finished with 16 points and Stefanie Yderstrom added 15 for Miami, which had to sweat to claim its seventh straight win and end its struggles at the ACC tournament. The Hurricanes went one-and-done in each of the last five years.

"We had no tradition coming in, but me, Riquna and [teammate Sylvia Bullock] are definitely setting tradition here with these freshmen," Johnson said. "So I think the pride is definitely there now."

Johnson, who won the league's player of the year award earlier in the day, was 10-for-20 and matched a career high with four 3-pointers.

NC State, which trailed 46-34 at halftime, was trying to stage the second-biggest second-half rally in ACC tournament history and largest since Duke stormed back from 20 down to beat Virginia in the 1995 semifinals.

The Wolfpack got back in the game late in the first half by outscoring Miami 25-11 during a span of roughly 10 minutes. Then, after falling behind by 14 in the opening minute of the second half, Holston brought the Wolfpack back by scoring nine points during a 19-8 run that pulled them to 56-53 with 14 minutes left. Strachan's three-point play with 12:33 remaining made it 60-all.

In two years with Harper, the Wolfpack have developed a knack for comebacks. They rallied from 10 points down to beat Boston College in last year's semifinals and eliminated the Eagles again this year, overcoming a 14-point deficit Thursday night to advance to the quarters.

So when Miami built early leads of 20-3 and 26-7, it was business as usual for NC State.

The Hurricanes reeled off 15 straight points during a 20-1 run in the opening minutes, with Yderstrom scoring nine points during the burst and Johnson capping it with a 3-pointer that made it 20-3 with 14:45 left. Williams stretched the margin to 19 with a free throw less than eight minutes in.

"I was very clear with my team and very clear with my staff that if we were to get a lead, we weren't going to start celebrating and playing for tomorrow," Miami coach Katie Meier said. "Because this is the last team in America that you play for tomorrow when you're playing. They are tough as nails, and that is such a credit to their coaching staff."