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March 4, 2010
GREENSBORO, N.C. – ACC Rookie of the Year Marissa Kastanek hit a pair of 3-pointers from the right corner in the game’s decisive run as sixth-seeded NC State repelled a challenge from No. 11 Clemson for a 59-54 win in Thursday’s final first-round game at the ACC Tournament.
The Wolfpack (18-12) trailed 44-40 when the Tigers’ Lele Hardy made a steal and a layup with 7:56 to play, but it quickly stabilized after a time out. Nikitta Gartrell’s jumper off the in-bounds pass initiated the 14-3 surge, which lifted State into Friday’s quarterfinals against No. 3 Virginia and improved the Pack’s NCAA tournament hopes.
Kastanek responded after a foul-impeded first half as the Pack earned its most important win of the year.
“I realized earlier in the season that if I go into the locker room with my head down and with no confidence, the second half will be the same way,” she said. “So I went into the locker room with a positive attitude. And my teammates always say, ‘The first half’s over; let’s go.’ “
Bonae Holston delivered a season-high 22 points and nine rebounds and Kastanek added a dozen points for State, which entered the day 42nd in the RPI and the owner of five wins against the Top 50. Historically, those numbers bode well for a team’s at-large candidacy. In the decade just past, nine ACC teams were rated in the 40s on Selection Sunday, and eight of them got in. (The lone exception, curiously enough, was No. 40 Boston College last year.)
Among the benefits of Thursday’s win is another game with a highly rated opponent. Virginia began Thursday 16th in the RPI.
Sthefany Thomas led the Tigers with 17 points in 24 minutes.
“I was feeling good shooting the ball, but it wasn’t good enough,” Thomas said.
Kastanek, a 5-foot-9 freshman from Lincoln, Neb., became only the third Rookie of the Year in the proud history of the Wolfpack program after averaging 10.7 points a game in the regular season. Her 35.3-percent accuracy from long range was ninth in the league, and it was pivotal in Thursday’s late stages.
She put her team back in front with a trifecta out of the right corner at the 6:11 mark. When the Tigers overplayed the wing a few possessions later, Kastanek drove into the lane and fed Holston for a layup.
The evening’s biggest shot came shortly thereafter. Amber White picked up her dribble and appeared trapped until spying Kastanek dashing into the corner. The resulting 3-pointer gave the Pack a seven-point lead, and the Tigers (13-18) couldn’t get closer than three the rest of the way.
“A disappointing end to a disappointing season,” Clemson coach Cristy McKinney said. “That’s been our deal all year: inconsistency. We picked a bad day to have a bad game.”