March 2, 2007
BY STEVE PHILLIPS
GREENSBORO, N.C. — North Carolina State closed the regular season as one of the nation’s hottest basketball teams. The 24th-ranked Wolfpack saw no reason to depart from form on Friday.
Hitting its stride after a rugged first half, N.C. State pulled away from Florida State in the final 20 minutes to post a 76-49 win in the Atlantic Coast Conference Women’s Tournament quarterfinals.
The Wolfpack (22-8), winners of four straight games and nine of its last 10, faces the Duke-Virginia winner in Saturday’s 2 p.m semifinal game. N.C. State is seeded fourth in the tournament field. The fifth-seeded Seminoles (22-9) returned home to await an all but certain NCAA Tournament bid.
N.C. State coach Kay Yow, whose fight against breast cancer has received national attention, acknowledged a standing ovation as she took the Greensboro Coliseum floor prior to the game. Her supporters included a large contingent of Duke fans directly behind the Wolfpack bench, and a rival North Carolina fan who sported a homemade sign that declared: “Carolina loves you, Coach Yow.”
“I cried for a few minutes after I walked out because I appreciate the support,” Yow said. “I wish I had the time to tell you what every coach, what so many fans from every team have written me. And I know there are a lot of them in the stands that have prayed for me fervently.
“When I walked out and all of the fans from the different schools stood, it was just overwhelming.”
Six-foot-7 center Gillian Goring, who said Yow’s cancer battle has been her season-long source of inspiration, led the Wolfpack’s scoring with 22 points, and her 19 rebounds were just two off the tournament’s single-game record.
“I’ve committed my whole life to coming out and playing and being the most dominate player for Coach Yow and try to give her my all,” Goring said. “I’m not going to be (a) baby no more. I’m going to grow up and play hard for Coach Yow and keep my promise.”
While things started with Goring for the N.C. State on Friday, they certainly didn’t end there. Shayla Fields added 16 points, while Ashley Key added 14 and Marquettea Dickens had 12. Khadija Whittington pulled down 10 rebounds, joining Goring to key the Wolfpack to a 46-38 edge on the boards.
Britany Miller scored 10 points to lead Florida State, which finished 19-of-65 from the floor. The Seminoles shot 27 percent in the second half and checked out at 29 percent for the game.
“I think we saw today that N.C. State is just a tougher basketball team than we are,” Florida State coach Sue Semrau said. “They really played through a lot of physical play. They finished shots with a lot of contact, and we couldn’t finish our shots with the same kind of contact.
“Congratulations to them. They are a very good basketball team.”
Goring had 14 points and 12 rebounds by the halftime break, but the Wolfpack shot just 37.5 percent as a team and clung to a 27-25 lead. N.C. State heated up in the second half, shooting 57 percent while applying the clamps defensively.
The Seminoles remained within striking distance with 6:50 remaining, when Miller’s follow shot brought Florida State within 54-45. But the Seminoles managed just two field goals the rest of the way.
“I hesitate to say we’re ‘peaking,’ because you don’t want to peak at the wrong time,” the Wolfpack’s Key said. “But I think we are playing good, getting better every game. It’s March Madness, (and) I think everything is going our way right now.”