NC State women beat Clemson 56-45 in ACC tourney opener

CorrespondentMarch 7, 2013 

— Marissa Kastanek wasn’t going to let her N.C. State career end just yet.

Kody Burke led the way with 16 points and Kastanek added 14, leading the Wolfpack to a 56-45 comeback win over upset-minded Clemson in Thursday’s first round of the ACC women’s basketball tournament at Greensboro Coliseum.

The No. 8 seed Wolfpack (16-15) will take on top-seeded Duke (27-2) in quarterfinal action at 2 p.m. Friday. It will be the second year in a row the Wolfpack has played Duke in the second round. Last season, N.C. State shocked the top-seeded Blue Devils 75-73.

“We’re excited to be moving on,” said fourth-year Wolfpack coach Kellie Harper, who has never lost a first-round ACC tournament game. “It doesn’t have to be pretty. All that matters is that we had more points than them at the end of the game and we get to play tomorrow.

“It’s really important for our players to understand that it’s a great team win. Clemson came in fighting and we knew that was going to happen. It’s tournament time and records are 0-0. I thought we were a little tight on the offensive end. Sometimes you see that in the first-round games.”

Nikki Dixon led the No. 9 seed Tigers (9-21) with 11 points. Quinyotta Pettaway chipped in nine points and nine rebounds.

“I think both teams played extremely hard today,” said Clemson coach Itoro Coleman, whose team dressed only eight players and had not had more than that since November. “I think we played a good 36 minutes (leading 44-42), and down the stretch we couldn’t score and we didn’t get back in transition defense.

“We put them at the free-throw line too many times. But I’m proud of the way my team fought.”

The Wolfpack won both of the teams’ regular-season meetings, 79-45 on Feb. 10 at Reynolds Coliseum and 63-47 on Sunday at Clemson. But this one wasn’t quite so easy.

Clemson, which hasn’t won an ACC tournament game since 2009, led by as many as eight points in the first half, taking a 29-26 lead into the locker room.

N.C. State trailed 44-40 with 5 minutes, 7 seconds left before going on a 16-1 run to end the game. Kastanek’s 3-pointer with 2:58 to go gave the Wolfpack a 47-44 lead that it never relinquished.

“That ‘three’ allowed everyone to loosen up and breathe a sigh of relief a little bit,” Harper said.

Added Kastanek: “That’s kind of when I lost the jitters.”

Earlier, she had kept N.C. State in the game with a personal 6-0 run to turn a 35-32 deficit into a 38-35 lead with 12:36 to go.

“In the beginning of the season I was playing tight and Coach pulled me aside and said, ‘You’ve got to live in the moment. Your senior year is only going to happen once,” said Kastanek, who was first-team all-conference by the league’s coaches and was honored with the Kay Yow Award as the ACC’s best women’s basketball student-athlete for the second straight year. “You don’t want to go through it worrying about how it’s going to end. I’m just living in the moment and relying on my teammates.”

Markeisha Gatling had 11 rebounds to go with her six points for the Wolfpack.

N.C. State shot 34.7 percent to the Tigers’ 30.2 and won the rebound battle by a scant 40-39, but it was 18-for-25 from the free-throw line to Clemson’s 6-for-7. The Wolfpack committed 19 turnovers to the Tigers’ 16.

“We didn’t really have the first-round jitters,” Burke said. “This is my third time in the ACC tournament. But I’d say in the second half when the shots started going in a lot more we were able to relax a little bit.”

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