Pack Women Advances In ACC Tourney

When N.C. State began its ACC season at home against Syracuse on Jan. 5, the Wolfpack used a second half rally to overcome a double-digit deficit and defeat the Orange. In the ACC Tournament quarterfinals on Friday, it was a case of déjà vu in Greensboro.

Propelled by a 25-1 run in the second half and shrugging off three stoppages in play due to power failures, No. 14 N.C. State (25-6, 12-5) defeated Syracuse 79-63 to advance to the semifinals of the conference tournament on Saturday, where the Pack will face undefeated and 2nd ranked Notre Dame at 5 p.m. The Irish closed out the regular season with a 84-60 win at Reynolds Coliseum on Sunday.

State was led by senior center Markeisha Gatling, who finished with 28 points, including 18 in the second half, along with nine rebounds. However, the Raleigh-native injured her left knee with 8:19 remaining in the game and limped off the court.

Senior forward Kody Burke, the recipient of the Kay Yow Scholar Athlete of the Year Award earlier in the day, finished with 21 points and a career-best 16 rebounds. Freshman guard Miah Spencer added 10 points and senior guard Breezy Williams came off the bench to score nine points, including two critical three-pointers during N.C. State's decisive run.

The win marked the sixth time in 12 league victories this season (regular season and tournament combined) that the Pack has overcome a deficit of at least nine points.

"I just couldn't be prouder of this group of kids, first-year N.C. State head coach Wes Moore said. "They've done it all year long. It is not good for the head coach and the heart, but it sure is nice when you have a happy ending."

State trailed the Orange 38-31 at halftime and with 15:35 remaining Syracuse held a nine-point lead. The Pack then scored 25 of the games next 26 points, with 14 coming from Gatling, over the next seven minutes to take 15-point advantage with 7:45 left in the game.

"[I] have to give N.C. State a ton of credit for just not laying down at halftime," Syracuse head coach Quentin Hillsman said. "That's why they had the season they had. They played hard and did a good job."

Gatling got injured towards the end of the burst that saw State pull away. Moore said Gatling was examined in the locker room and will receive further evaluations to determine the extent of her injury.

"The X-rays and everything they've done so far has been good," Moore said. "I know they're going to do an MRI just to be safe. Hopefully, whether it be [Saturday] or in a couple of weeks when we play again, we'll get her back out there."

In Gatling's absence, Burke played a more interior role, helping the Pack maintain its rebounding advantage. Syracuse closed the deficit to nine points with 3:45 remaining but never seriously threatened. The three-time Academic All-American feels N.C. State can pick up the slack if necessary.

"I am so confident in my team," Burke said. "There was a long stretch where [Gatling] was not in there and we had people step to the plate. As long as we play defense, I feel like our offense will come."

Notre Dame presents a daunting task for the Pack on Saturday. However, the last time N.C. State played an unbeaten team in the conference tournament was in 2007, when Kay Yow's squad upset No. 1 Duke 70-65 in a semifinal matchup also in Greensboro.

"Keep playing defense, getting rebounds boxing out and doing the little things on the court," Spencer said. "We'll be fine."

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