• 63°

Cunane, No. 3 NC State women avoid upset, reach today’s ACC title game

By STEVE REED

AP Sports Writer

GREENSBORO (AP) — North Carolina State coach Wes Moore is thrilled to be back in the Atlantic Coast Conference championship game as the Wolfpack looks to defend their title.

Elissa Cunane had another huge game with 23 points and nine rebounds, and the third-ranked Wolfpack had to battle back from a 10-point, fourth-quarter deficit to beat Georgia Tech 66-61 on Saturday in the semifinals.

Moore knows his team is going to need to play better today against No. 5 Louisville if it hopes to repeat. The Cardinals beat Syracuse 72-59 in the other semifinal on Saturday.

“We found a way to win, but I wouldn’t say we’re clicking by any means,” Moore said. “We’re going to have to match their intensity, and we’re going to have to execute a little bit better offensively and hopefully shoot the ball a little bit better because Louisville is going to score points.”

Lotta-Maj Lahtinen chipped in with 17 points and five assists for the Yellow Jackets (15-8), who led most of the second half but went cold in the waning moments.

Cunane finished 8 of 13 from the field and helped seal the win with two clutch free throws with 8.8 seconds left, finishing 7 of 8 from the foul line for N.C. State (19-2).

“We were doing our best to contain her,” said Georgia Tech forward Lorela Cubaj, who finished with 17 points and 11 rebounds. “At the end of the day we’ve just got to do that for 40 minutes. The last four minutes were crucial and she showed up.”

Georgia Tech closed the first half on a 9-2 run to take a 33-28 lead into the locker room with Cubaj and Lahtinen combining for seven of those points. The Yellow Jackets would stretch the lead to 10 early in the fourth quarter.

But the Wolfpack didn’t panic, taking the lead with 2:27 left behind 3s from Kai Crutchfield and Jakia Brown-Turner and back-to-back baskets in the low post from Cunane.

“We needed something to spark our mojo,” Crutchfield said.

Kayla Jones added 12 points and eight rebounds for the Wolfpack.

“I really felt like the first half Georgia Tech just played harder than us,” Moore said. “They outscored us in fast-break points, they outrebounded us, they had outscored us on second-chance points. … They just hit us in the mouth and took it to us, and second half we competed a lot better. It’s what champions do. They find a way to win.”

Said Georgia Tech coach Nell Fortner: “Really proud of how we fought hard today and gave ourselves a chance to win.”

BIG PICTURE

Georgia Tech: Cubaj proved tough to stop in the low post and will be a problem in the NCAA Tournament with her array of moves, including a nifty hook shot. Lahtinen is a strong scorer and made 8 of 11 shots from the field. “I think they have a chance to make a run” in the tournament, Moore said.

NC State: Cunane was strong inside, but the Wolfpack also got big plays from Crutchfield and Brown-Turner in the pivotal fourth quarter. Both finished with 10 points.

CUNANE’S BIG TOURNAMENT

Cunane, who grew up near Greensboro, is in the midst of another terrific ACC Tournament. She had a game-high 27 points and nine rebounds in a 68-55 win over Virginia Tech in the quarterfinals, connecting on 10 of 15 shots from the floor and going 7 of 8 from the foul line.

“It’s tournament time, so I definitely stepped up my game,” Cunane said. “I know that there’s not a lot of people out there that can guard me if my teammates are getting me the ball, and we’ve been shooting it really well from the outside, so that leaves up the middle to be open.”

TIP-INS

NC State beat then-No. 1 ranked Louisville 74-60 last month. … Georgia Tech shot just 3 of 13 from the field. … Georgia Tech only attempted six free throws in the game.

UP NEXT

Georgia Tech: The Yellow Jackets will wait to hear where they are seeded in the upcoming NCAA Tournament after finishing third in the conference regular-season standings.

NC State: The Wolfpack looks for its second straight ACC title today.

___

Follow Steve Reed on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/SteveReedAP

___

More AP women’s college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/womens-college-basketball and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25

Comments

News

Man killed by deputy recalled as storyteller, jokester

News

Rowan’s Sen. Ford backs ‘Election Integrity Act’ to move up absentee ballot deadlines

Business

Salisbury earns ranking on national list of best small cities to start a business

Crime

Supreme Court makes it easier to give minors convicted of murder a life sentence

Local

Quotes of the week

Local

Salisbury Human Relations Council offering online Racial Wealth Gap Simulation

News

Bill seeking permanent daylight saving clears NC House

News

Friends describe Elizabeth City man killed by deputy

Business

With second hobbit house now complete, Cherry Treesort looks toward future expansion

College

Catawba Sports: 2021 Hall of Fame class announced

Crime

Supreme Court makes it easier to sentence minors convicted of murder to life in prison

Local

Overton dedicates tree to longtime volunteer Leon Zimmerman

Coronavirus

First dose COVID-19 vaccinations up to 24% in Rowan County

Crime

Blotter: April 22

Crime

Lawsuit: Salisbury Police, Rowan Sheriff’s Office tore woman’s shoulder during traffic stop

Business

‘Believe me, they’ll be fresh’: Patterson Farm welcomes strawberry crop

Local

City appoints more members to boards, commissions, with 9 seats left to be filled

News

Virtual play groups the new norm at Smart Start

Local

City meets in closed session to consult with attorney on two ongoing litigation cases

Education

Summit takes art out of the classroom, into the student’s home

Education

Education briefs: Gene Haas Foundation donates $12,500 to RCCC

Business

County’s restaurant grant program dishes out funding to eight local eateries

High School

High school football: Yow out as South head coach

Education

Shoutouts