by Mike Potter
GREENSBORO COLISEUM N.C. State finds itself in a must-win situation as the Wolfpack starts ACC Tournament play.
The No. 8 seed Wolfpack (15-15) takes on No. 9 Clemson (9-20) for the chance to meet No. 1 seed Duke in the second round.
Wolfpack coach Kellie Harper, in her fourth season, has not lost a first-round game in the tournament while Clemson is looking for its first tournament win since 2009.
State won both regular-season meetings comfortably, rolling 79-45 on Feb. 10 at Reynolds Coliseum and 63-47 in the regular-season finale Sunday at Clemson.
The Tigers look like they might win until the last TV timeout, but the Wolfpack comes up with a late run and pulls away 56-45.
Clemson leads by as many as eight points before being up 29-26 at the break.
And the Tigers lead 35-32 with 14:16 left before Kastanek goes to work with three straight two-point field goals.
Clemson goes up again 44-40 on a three-point play from Chancie Dunn with 6:14 left, but that’s where the bottom falls out.
State takes the lead for good at 47-44 on a 3-pointer from the left elbow with 2:58 to go. Clemson’s last point of the game comes 23 seconds later when Quinyotta Pettaway hits the second of two free throws.
Kody Burke leads the Wolfpack with 16 points followed by 14 from Kastanek. Markeisha Gatling adds six and pulls down 11 rebounds.
Nikki Dixon leads the Tigers with 11 points.
State shoots 34.7 percent to the Tigers’ 30.2 and ekes out a 40-39 win in the rebound battle, but is 18-for-25 from the free-throw line to Clemson’s 6-for-7. The Wolfpack commits 19 turnovers to the Tigers’ 16.
They said it …
Harper: “We’re excited to be moving on. It doesn’t have to be pretty. All that matters is that we had more points than them at the end of the game and we get to play tomorrow. It’s really important for our players to understand that it’s a great team win. Clemson came in fighting and we knew that was going to happen. It’s tournament time and records are 0-0. I thought we were a little tight on the offensive end. Sometimes you see that in the first-round games.”
Clemson coach Itoro Coleman: “I think both teams played extremely hard today. I think we played a good 36 minutes (leading 44-42), and down the stretch we couldn’t score and we didn’t get back in transition defense. We put them at the free-throw line too many times. But I’m proud of the way my team fought.”
Kastanek: “In the beginning of the season I was playing tight and Coach pulled me aside and said ‘You’ve got to live in the moment. Your senior year is only going to happen once. You don’t want to go through it worrying about how it’s going to end. I’m just living in the moment and relying on my teammates.”
Burke: “We didn’t really have the first-round jitters. This is my second time in the ACC Tournament. But I’d say in the second half when the shots started going in a lot more we were able to relax a little bit.”
What does it all mean?
That the Wolfpack is almost certainly going to post-season play, while Clemson will try to regroup and do better next season.
Stars of the game
Play of the game
Kastanek’s 3-pointer for the lead with 2:58 left.
State: Won 3.
Clemson: Lost 3.
State leads 52-30.
State vs. Duke, Friday, 2 p.m.
Clemson in 2013-14 season opener.