03/06 16:21 CST Cunane, No. 3 NC State avoid upset, reach ACC title game
Cunane, No. 3 NC State avoid upset, reach ACC title game
By STEVE REED
AP Sports Writer
GREENSBORO, N.C. (AP) --- North Carolina State coach Wes Moore is thrilled to
be back in the Atlantic Coast Conference championship game as the Wolfpack
looks to defend its title.
But he knows his team is going to need to play better Sunday against No. 5
Louisville if it hopes to repeat. The Cardinals beat Syracuse 72-59 in the
other semifinal on Saturday.
"We found a way to win, but I wouldn't say we're clicking by any means," Moore
said. "We're going to have to match their intensity, and we're going to have to
execute a little bit better offensively and hopefully shoot the ball a little
bit better because Louisville is going to score points."
Elissa Cunane had another huge game with 23 points and nine rebounds, and the
third-ranked Wolfpack had to battle back from a 10-point, fourth-quarter
deficit to beat Georgia Tech 66-61 on Saturday in the semifinals.
"We were doing our best to contain her," said Georgia Tech forward Lorela
Cubaj, who finished with 17 points and 11 rebounds. "At the end of the day
we've just got to do that for 40 minutes. The last four minutes were crucial
and she showed up."
Lotta-Maj Lahtinen chipped in with 17 points and five assists for the Yellow
Jackets, who led most of the second half but went cold in the waning moments.
Georgia Tech (15-8) closed the first half on a 9-2 run to take a 33-28 lead
into the locker room with Cubaj and Lahtinen combining for seven of those
points. The Yellow Jackets would stretch the lead to 10 early in the fourth
But the Wolfpack didn't panic, taking the lead with 2:27 left behind 3s from
Kai Crutchfield and Jakia Brown-Turner and back-to-back baskets in the low post
from Cunane, who finished 8 of 13 from the field.
"We needed something to spark our mojo," Crutchfield said.
Cunane helped seal the win with two clutch free throws with 8.8 seconds left,
finishing 7 of 8 from the foul line.
Kayla Jones added 12 points and eight rebounds for the Wolfpack (19-2)
"I really felt like the first half Georgia Tech just played harder than us,"
Moore said. "They outscored us in fast-break points, they outrebounded us, they
had outscored us on second-chance points. ... They just hit us in the mouth and
took it to us, and second half we competed a lot better. It's what champions
do. They find a way to win."
Said Georgia Tech coach Nell Fortner: "Really proud of how we fought hard today
and gave ourselves a chance to win."
Georgia Tech: Cubaj proved tough to stop in the low post and will be a problem
in the NCAA Tournament with her array of moves, including a nifty hook shot.
Lahtinen is a strong scorer and made 8 of 11 shots from the field. "I think
they have a chance to make a run" in the tournament, Moore said.
NC State: Cunane was strong inside, but the Wolfpack also got big plays from
Crutchfield and Brown-Turner in the pivotal fourth quarter. Both finished with
CUNANE'S BIG TOURNAMENT
Cunane, who grew up near Greensboro, is in the midst of another terrific ACC
Tournament. She had a game-high 27 points and nine rebounds in a 68-55 win over
Virginia Tech in the quarterfinals, connecting on 10 of 15 shots from the floor
and going 7 of 8 from the foul line.
"It's tournament time, so I definitely stepped up my game," Cunane said. "I
know that there's not a lot of people out there that can guard me if my
teammates are getting me the ball, and we've been shooting it really well from
the outside, so that leaves up the middle to be open."
NC State beat then-No. 1 ranked Louisville 74-60 last month. ... Georgia Tech
shot just 3 of 13 from the field. ... Georgia Tech only attempted six free
throws in the game.
Georgia Tech: The Yellow Jackets will wait to hear where they are seeded in the
upcoming NCAA Tournament after finishing third in the conference regular-season
NC State: The Wolfpack looks for its second straight ACC title on Sunday.
Follow Steve Reed on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/SteveReedAP
More AP women's college basketball: