March 3, 2006
GREENSBORO – Florida State led for just one possession when Holly Johnson sank a pair of free throws with 3:43 left but the Seminoles fell 64-60 to No. 5 seed NC State Friday afternoon. FSU rookie Britany Miller led all scorers with a season-best 23 points but NC State’s Marquetta Dickens scored six of her 19 points over the final 2:56 as North Carolina State held off Florida State to advance to the ACC Women’s Tournament semifinals.
The Wolfpack (19-10) will now take on arch-rival and top-seeded North Carolina, the nation’s No. 1 ranked team. The Tar Heels beat Virginia by 26 points in the day’s first quarterfinal game.
The fourth-seeded Seminoles (19-9), who won 10 ACC regular-season games for the first time, fell to 3-15 all-time in the tournament, losing seven straight.
“You’ve got to look at what they have done,” FSU coach Sue Semrau of her seniors, who didn’t win an ACC tourney game in their careers despite moving the program to new heights. “We can make a big deal out of a four-point loss, but I prefer to look at the growth and the things they have done.”
The score was tied twice after Johnson gave FSU its only lead as Dickens scored on a pair of layups for the Wolfpack. But the Seminoles turned it over on three straight possessions and Khadijah Whittington gave N.C. State a 62-60 lead with 1:27 remaining.
However, the Wolfpack couldn’t close out the Seminoles, missing two straight one-and-one opportunities that set up one final FSU possession with 11.9 seconds left.
The plan was to get the ball to Miller, but the center was triple-teamed and she kicked the ball out to senior LaQuinta Neely, who had a wide open shot from the foul line, but missed with four seconds left.
“Having her take that last shot was really almost poetic,” Semrau said. “I just wish she would have hit it.”
Dickens then sealed the game after the Neely miss with two free throws.
“This game was a slugfest, that’s how it feels,” said N.C. State coach Kay Yow. “It was punch, punch, punch. We’re just fortunate to get the last punch in. Everybody who saw the game knows with a break here or there the game could have gone either way.
“I’m just really proud of my team the way they hung in there down the stretch,” added Yow. “They had some tough possessions there. They had to make some really good decisions and I thought they did a really good job.”
The Seminoles had to play without leading scorer and rebounder Alicia Gladden for much of the game. She picked up three quick fouls in the first half and one in the opening minutes of the second period and logged just 17 minutes, scoring just four points.
Dickens averaged 6.6 points a game this season, but had 16 against Clemson in the opening round of the tournament and made 8-of-14 shots against the Seminoles for 19 points.
“She always plays hard,” Yow said. “She has just been working harder with her shot selection and getting in her range for her shots. We tried to set up a few more things to give her opportunities for penetration.”
Yow said her team won’t be tired Saturday despite playing a mentally tough game against the Seminoles.
“This is now a mind-over-matter thing,” Yow said. “We saw coming in that we would have to play four games in the bracket (to win the title). We’ll go back and rest and we’ll eat well. It’s going to be a two-hour game. We love the game, so it’s not like we’re doing something we hate. How tired can we be? We can’t be tired.”
Meanwhile, the Seminoles will head into the NCAA Tournament on a downer for the second straight season.
“When we let this sink in we’ll be very excited,” Semrau said. “We’re a better team than we were last year. We have high aspirations. We’ll go back to the drawing board. We’ll focus on the things we’ve done to be better and go into the NCAAs with confidence.”