It’s a big opportunity for a team that needs to generate a lot of positive attention to get on the board for an NCAA at-large berth.
State (15-11, 4-8 ACC) will be a solid underdog against No. 6 Miami (22-3, 11-1), which is chasing Duke for the ACC championship and still has a shot a No. 1 seed in an NCAA regional.
Miami, coach by Duke alumna Katie Meier, won the teams’ first meeting 78-68 on Jan. 5 in Coral Gables.
The one positive for the Wolfpack, which would probably need one win to lock up a WNIT bid, is that Miami has never won at Reynolds Coliseum.
It’s “Beach Night,” with fans encouraged to wear tropical attire.
Maybe the beach wear helps the favored Hurricanes feel at home, as they fight off a spirited Wolfpack effort to win 73-61.
Miami leads 44-32 at halftime.
It looks as if the Hurricanes were moving toward a blowout early, as they take a 20-8 lead on a Michelle Woods 3-pointer with 14:11 left in the half.
But the Wolfpack keeps clawing, narrowing the lead to a single point three times later in the half. State trails only 33-30 following a Bonae Holston layup at 3:23, but Riquna Williams scores the next 11 points and the Hurricanes take a solid lead they never relinquish.
Miami leads 62-47 when State’s fortunes take another hit, as Marissa Kastanek hits the floor in the heap and is helped off with an injury to her right foot.
Williams leads Miami with 24 points, followed by 6-6 junior Shawnice Wilson with 17 and 17 rebounds in her first career double-double. Stefanie Yderstrom chips in 12 points, while Shenise Johnson has 12 rebounds to go with her seven points.
Myisha Goodwin-Coleman leads the Wolfpack with 14 points, followed by Kastanek with 12 and the senior Holston 10.
Miami shoots 42.9 percent to State’s 38.8, wins the rebound battle 46-36 and commits 18 turnovers to the Wolfpack’s 16.
They said it …
State coach Kellie Harper: “I thought our team competed, and I thought we played hard and I thought we played tough. I didn’t think we backed down to a very good and talented Miami team. There’s a reason they’re ranked No. 6 in the country. Their two guards (Williams and Johnson) are two of the best in the country. But I’m proud of our kids and how hard we played. Hopefully we can pull out the positives.”
Meier: “(State) was so prepared for this game and so well-coached, they always play with spirit. Even with 1:20 left I thought they could hit four threes and tie the thing. We really had to play very good basketball and have special performances from (Williams and Wilson) to hang in there with them. I was so impressed with how mentally tough they were. If we didn’t have (Williams’) 17 and 17 we would have come up with a loss.”
Wilson: “Every game is an opportunity for me. It’s just up to me whether or not I use my size as an advantage. My coach definitely reminded me I have the height advantage and strength and maybe quickness. I try to use it to my advantage, and 17/17 was the result.”
Holston: “I’m just cherishing these moments when I’m on the court and not taking them for granted. I can’t believe I have only one more game in Reynolds (against Maryland Feb. 26). That’s crazy!”
What does it all mean?
That State’s road to post-season play got just a little tougher, and Miami stayed on pace for a shot at Duke on Feb. 24 for the ACC regular-season title.
Stars of the game
Play of the game
Williams’ 3-pointer to put the Hurricanes up 67-53 with 4:40 to go.
State: Lost 2.
Miami: Won 12.
State leads 9-5.
State at UNC, Sunday, 1:30 p.m.
Miami vs. Florida State, Sunday, 3:30 p.m.