by Mike Potter
If any miracle is going to happen, tonight will be the first test.
The No. 10 seed Wolfpack (14-16) is taking on No. 2 Miami (26-3), which is ranked tenth nationally and topped the Wolfpack 84-77 in their regular-season meeting on Jan. 27 in Coral Gables.
The Wolfpack fights very hard after getting into a deep, deep hole, but can’t close the deal over the last five minutes and ends its season with a 93-85 loss.
For the first few minutes of the game, it looks as if the Wolfpack may be getting ready to lose in pretty ugly fashion.
Miami comes out like it was shot out of a cannon, going up 28-9 on a Sylvia Bullock layup with 11:48 left in the first half.
But the Wolfpack makes a long run, slicing the advantage to 39-34 on a three-point play from Myisha Goodwin-Coleman with 1:58 left in the half.
Miami shoots 48.6 percent in the first half to State’s 43.8, leads the rebound battle 23-18 and commits 11 turnovers to the underdogs’ 14.
The Hurricanes take the lead back to 13 at 54-41 on a Johnson 3-pointer with 17:41 to go, but the Wolfpack keeps on coming.
With the partisan crowd cheering it on the Wolfpack ties the score three times — at 60, 62 and then at 64 on a pair of Amber White free throws — but can never take the lead.
It’s only 85-81 after a White layup at 1:03, but the Hurricanes get three straight offensive rebounds and make it 88-81 on Johnson’s layup with 40 seconds remaining.
Johnson, the ACC player of the year, leads the Hurricanes with 25 points and 13 rebounds followed by Riquna Williams with 22 points, Morgan Stroman with 16 and Yderstrom 15.
Holston leads the Wolfpack with 25 points and 11 rebounds, while the seniors finish on a great note — White scored 18 points and Brittany Strachan 17.
Miami shoots 47.1 percent to State’s 47.2 and loses the rebounding battle 42-40, but the Wolfpack commits 23 turnovers to the Hurricanes’ 17.
They said it …
Miami coach Katie Meier: “We’re absolutely thrilled. You know we were the No. 2 seed and they were the 10, but you can throw those out the window. There’s no question N.C. State is a spirited team, a team that we love and admire when we watch them on film. They have such great character. … We’ve had big leads, we’ve lost big leads, we’ve regained them. So I wasn’t worried even if they took the lead. I think the crowd would have been really excited. We play with the crowd, we’re fine. You can cheer against us — as long as somebody’s cheering, we’re fine.”
N.C. State coach Kellie Harper: “I take losing very hard and our team takes it hard, especially when we know it’s our last game. It’s really hard for our seniors. Miami is a very talented team, and we knew that going in. It was going to be hard for us to continue to guard their All-Americans. We knew it was going to be hard for us to score against their aggressive defense. The kids fought hard. We told the players in the locker room they’ve really defined out program this year and defined it in a positive way. N.C. State is going to fight.”
Johnson: “This definitely means a lot. It was well-earned. We’ve worked our butts off for two years, and we haven’t been able to come up with wins. … It’s the pride, ‘The U,’ baby. That’s what we call it. We call it a U family. We had no tradition coming in but Riquna and I and Sylvia definitely set the tradition with our freshmen. The pride is definitely there now.”
White: “Like Coach said, I thought we fought. I think that defined us in so many ways, just like the team from last year that wasn’t going to give up. We were going to give it all and weren’t going to lay down. They were going to have to take the win from us.”
Strachan: “The legacy we want to leave is that you should never give up. No matter what you’re going through as a team, just know that if you keep fighting and you keep working hard, good things will come to you.”
Stars of the game
Play of the game
Johnson’s layup to make it 88-81 with 40 seconds left.
NCSU leads 9-3.
NCSU: Won 2.
UM: Won 7.
Miami vs. UNC, Saturday, 3:30 p.m.
NCSU in 2011-12 season opener.