Making the NCAA Tournament instead of the WNIT is predicated on the Pack’s success against the ACC’s middle class, and tonight’s game with Florida State (11-10, 3-4) is a straight-up battle for fifth place.
Kellie Harper’s club comes in at 13-7, 3-4 in conference play, and has won three of its last four games. But the Pack has been licking some wounds since a 60-50 loss to arch-rival UNC here on Sunday.
Florida State has won four straight in the series, but by a total of only 18 points.
Tonight FSU keeps its magic in the series alive, winning 67-64 on Leonor Rodriguez’ 3-pointer with 1.1 seconds left to stay above .500.
The Seminoles — who lose point guard Alexa Deluzio to a high ankle sprain with 2:48 left in the first - lead 39-30 at the break behind 10 points from Natasha Howard. Bonae Holston has 10 for the Wolfpack.
FSU shoots 65.4 percent over the period to the Wolfpack’s 30.3, outrebounding the hosts 23-13. The only bright spot for the Wolfpack is its nine turnovers to the visitors’ 17.
The Pack gets in a deeper hole, trailing 44-31 after a three-point play from Howard with 19:05 to go. Consecutive 3-pointers from Myisha Goodwin-Coleman and Marissa Kastanek cut into the deficit, but the Seminoles take it back to 52-41 on a Chasity Clayton jumper with 12:06 to go.
And then Goodwin-Coleman goes to work as the noisy home crowd of 2,021 picks up the Wolfpack, scoring seven straight points to cut it to four.
The Seminoles keep answering, finally leading 64-58 on a strong Cierra Bravard follow shot at 2:40.
And those are the visitors’ last points until their final shot. Goodwin-Coleman hits a pair of free throws with 1:38 left, adds a layup at :32, and then following an FSU turnover at :17 hits Holston for the tying layup at 8.9.
But the Seminoles execute their final play, getting the ball to Rodriguez on the left elbow for their only successful 3-pointer of the night.
Howard leads the Seminoles with 17 points and 10 rebounds, followed by Rodriguez with 11 points and Clayton and Bravard 10 apiece.
Goodwin-Coleman finishes with 17 points including 6-for-6 from the free-throw line, followed by Holston with 14 and Kastanek with 10. Freshman Kiana Evans has six points and is 4-for-5 from the free-throw stripe.
FSU shoots 56.9 percent to the Wolfpack’s 29.2 and outrebounds the hosts 46-28. NCSU excels in the floor game with 13 turnovers to the visitors’ 32, and hits 20 of 26 free throws to FSU’s 8-of-11.
They said it …
Harper: “Our team and staff are broken-hearted that we lost the game with a shot like that. It’s a tough pill to swallow. There are numerous things we could have done throughout the game to put us in a better position down the stretch. We’re just disappointed we couldn’t have put that thing into overtime and given ourselves a chance. We’re just not doing a good job getting easy shots right now and that’s showing in our shooting percentage. And they shoot 57 percent for the game. That’s insane.”
FSU coach Sue Semrau: “I can’t begin to tell you what kind of heart that took from those kids who’ve had to fight through so many tough, close games. I think N.C. State showed a lot of heart tonight as well. This is huge, and it’s huge for the character of our team. We’ve been so close, and our culture of winning has been challenged. These kids are young. I’ve got one senior (Bravard), and for them to step up and continue to fight the way they did was a really big win for us.”
Goodwin-Coleman: “I hear ‘shooter’ now, so they think I’m a shooter. (Opponents) are not letting me get as open as I used to be. Knocking down the open shot and getting extra time in the gym has helped.”
Evans: “(Bravard) is definitely strong. You hear that, but it’s different when you’re in there. Having to be physical with her was OK. I just made sure I was lower than she was so she couldn’t just knock me out when I was standing straight up.”
Play of the game
Rodriguez’ game-winning 3-pointer.
NCSU: Lost 2.
FSU: Won 1.
NCSU leads 24-12.
N.C. State at Virginia Tech, Sunday, 1 p.m.
Florida State at Virginia, Sunday, 3:30 p.m.