GREENSBORO, N.C. — Third-ranked North Carolina State completed its chase to a third straight Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament championship Sunday, ending Miami’s upset-filled run in a 60-47 victory.
Elissa Cunane had 17 points and eight rebounds despite exiting the game for a stretch in the second half with an apparent left-ankle injury for the top-seeded Wolfpack (29-3). She returned to grind through the final minutes and was named the tournament’s most valuable player for a second straight year.
N.C. State shot just 35% but took control with a 17-4 run with Miami’s offense unable to much of anything, a burst that stretched an eight-point margin to 54-33 on consecutive 3-pointers by Diamond Johnson to end the third quarter and start the fourth.
N.C. State kept that margin at double figures the rest of the way, never letting Miami repeat its improbable quarterfinal comeback win against No. 4 Louisville.
While the Wolfpack pushed to an expected finals appearance, the seventh-seeded Hurricanes (20-12) were the surprise of the weekend. They were trying to become the lowest-seeded team ever to win the ACC Tournament or to win four games in four days for a title, a run that had already included the wild rally from 15 down in the final 5:44 to beat the Cardinals and a semifinal win against No. 20 Notre Dame.
But Miami’s offense struggled all day, with the Hurricanes shooting just 32% and 3 for 19 from 3-point range. That included a 7-minute scoreless drought in the third quarter as the Wolfpack began to pull away.
Kelsey Marshall scored 24 points to lead the Hurricanes, but no other player reached double figures.
As the final seconds ticked away, Cunane – who had grimaced her way through the final 6:56 of the game – finally broke into a smile as the Wolfpack began to run out the clock and hugged teammate Jada Boyd.
A few feet away, teammate Raina Perez – who hit the game-winning shot in last year’s title game against Louisville – held up three fingers on each hand to the crowd, then jumped into Cunane’s arms for a hug at the horn.
Miami: Katie Meier’s Hurricanes have almost certainly taken care of any bubble drama when it comes to the NCAA Tournament. They have won seven of nine, with the highlight here being the rally to beat Louisville led by Destiny Harden — who hit the last-second shot to cap her run of scoring the game’s final 15 points — followed by the semifinal win against the Irish to earn the program’s first trip to an ACC tournament final. It was a gutsy run that fell just a game short of a championship.
N.C. State: The Wolfpack hadn’t won an ACC Tournament title since 1991 before this three-year reign. Wes Moore’s club paired that with the program clinching its first ACC regular-season championship since 1990, the latest milestones for a veteran team with aspirations of making a deep run in the NCAA Tournament, too.
Miami: The Hurricanes wait to find out their postseason destination.
N.C. State: A second straight No. 1 seed almost certainly awaits the Wolfpack in the NCAA Tournament.