GREENSBORO — It was three years ago in this building that Durand Scott made his true introduction to the ACC. And when Miami returned for this year’s tournament, coliseum workers and ACC staffers recognized him instantly for his past performance.
Miami was the No. 12 seed in the 2010 ACC tournament after winning just four regular-season league games. But the Hurricanes advanced to the semifinals and nearly knocked off No. 1 and eventual national champion Duke, losing 77-74. Scott, a freshman, turned in arguably the finest performance of his career to date, going 10-of-15 for 21 points. It earned him a spot on the all-tournament team, the first Hurricane to make the squad.
Saturday, Scott turned in another memorable semifinals performance – this time in a victory. Miami withstood a second-half N.C. State surge and held on for the 81-71 win. Scott poured in a career-high 32 points on 12-of-18 shooting and a career-best 5-of-8 on 3-pointers. The victory clinched the Hurricanes’ first appearance in the ACC title game – in basketball or football.
While it took everyone else on the floor at least 10 minutes to fully wake up, Scott was ready from the jump. Scott Wood did little to stop Scott from driving through the heart of the Wolfpack defense to score the game’s first four points.
“At the start I just didn’t do a good enough job pressuring him,” Wood said. “We let him kind of get in his comfort zone, and any time, for any player, once they see a couple shots go down, they’re tough to guard.”
And the points kept coming. Miami point guard Shane Larkin threaded a bounce pass through the lane, which Scott finished for two. A 3-pointer followed by a pull-up jumper from the right elbow made it a 14-5 Hurricanes lead, forcing N.C. State coach Mark Gottfried to call a timeout.
Fourteen minutes into the game, Scott had outscored the Wolfpack 17-15.
“He is such a strong, bigger guard, and he’s great off the dribble,” Gottfried said. “Today he had a jump shot going, so if you play off him and give him a one arm length gap, he would step up there and drill a 3 on you, which hasn’t been the case with him. We got up on him, and he beat us off the dribble.”
Scott finished with 19 in the first 20 minutes on 7-of-11 shooting, adding three assists and two steals.
In the second half, which featured a few N.C. State runs that cut the deficit to single digits, Scott responded with a 3-point play when N.C. State closed within 10 in its first possession. And when the Wolfpack was within six, Scott hit a long 3 to end that threat.
The highlights kept coming. In one sequence, he drove down and around the baseline, dishing to a teammate when the lane was sealed. Scott sprinted up to the right elbow beyond the 3-point arc and received the ball, this time finishing at the rim. And so it went until Scott fouled out with 1:53 left.
Scott, recently named the ACC defensive player of the year, also played solid defense against Wood. Wood scored 21 points, but none of his six 3-pointers came when Scott, his primary defender, was on him.
“There are different forms of being great. Tonight he was on fire offensively, but he plays great defense every night. That’s why he’s the defensive player of the year,” Miami coach Jim Larranaga said. “In my estimation, this game just symbolizes the kind of player he’s been for four years.”
Keeley 919-829-4556; Twitter @laurakeeley