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Cunane, No. 3 NC State avoid upset, reach ACC title game

North Carolina State's Kayla Jones (25) drives against Georgia Tech's Eylia Love, right, during...
North Carolina State's Kayla Jones (25) drives against Georgia Tech's Eylia Love, right, during an NCAA college basketball game in the semifinals of Atlantic Coast Conference tournament in Greensboro, N.C., Saturday, March 6, 2021. (AP Photo/Ben McKeown)(AP Photo/Ben McKeown | AP Photo/Ben McKeown)
Published: Mar. 6, 2021 at 4:53 PM EST
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GREENSBORO, N.C. (AP) — Elissa Cunane had 23 points and nine rebounds, and third-ranked North Carolina State stormed back from a 10-point fourth-quarter deficit to beat Georgia Tech 66-61 on Saturday and advance to the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament championship game.

Kayla Jones added 12 points and eight rebounds for the Wolfpack (19-2), which will look to repeat as ACC champions when they meet No. 5 Louisville on Sunday.

NC State previously beat then-No. 1 ranked Louisville 74-60 last month on the road.

Lorela Cubaj had a strong game with 17 points and 11 rebounds, and Lotta-Maj Lahtinen chipped in with 17 points and five assists for Georgia Tech, which led most of the second half but went cold down the stretch.

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 quarter with Cubaj cashing in on a spin move and Loyal McQueen knocking down a 3-pointer.

But the Wolfpack didn’t panic, finally 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.

Cunane helped seal the win with two clutch free throws with 8.8 seconds left, finishing 7 of 8 from the foul line.

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.

BIG PICTURE

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. Nerea Hermosa struggled guarding Cunane and fouled out late in the fourth quarter.

NC State: The Wolfpack showed the heart of a champion, refusing to be denied despite shooting just 38% in the first half. Cunane was strong inside, but the Wolfpack also got big plays from Crutchfield and Brown-Turner in the pivotal fourth quarter. Both finished with 10 points.

TIP-INS

Georgia Tech shot just 3 of 13 from the field. ... Georgia Tech only attempted six free throws in the game.

UP NEXT

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 standings.

NC State: The Wolfpack looks for its second straight ACC title on Sunday against rival Louisville, a 72-59 winner over Syracuse.

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Follow Steve Reed on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/SteveReedAP

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More AP women’s college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/womens-college-basketball and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25

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