ACC play week two: chaos

MaChelle Joseph gives instruction to Kierra Fletcher. Photo courtesy of Georgia Tech Athletics.
MaChelle Joseph gives instruction to Kierra Fletcher. Photo by Al Levine, the White and Gold.

Yesterday was the latest chapter in a season rife with upsets around the country, and the ACC contributed one of the more stunning iterations in Georgia Tech’s late-game pyrotechnics, knocking off No. 12 Syracuse in Atlanta.

Even among the games that didn’t end with stunning results, there was plenty of chaos to go around. Here’s a quick look at everything that went down, with special – and well-deserved – attention payed to ‘Cuse/GA Tech and the Virginia Tech/NC State OT barn burner in Raleigh.

Boston College at No. 1 Notre Dame:  Boston College (13-6, 2-4 ACC) has been much better than expected this season, but this week’s games proved too difficult to ask. After a 71-91 loss to FSU on Thursday, the Eagles had the unenviable task of playing in South Bend on Sunday. Notre Dame (18-1, 6-0 ACC) was fresh off demolishing Virginia Tech, and their firepower simply overwhelmed BC as the game wore on. To the Eagles’ credit, they put up one heck of a fight, playing the Irish almost even in the second and third quarters, but the totality of Notre Dame’s onslaught was too much. BC had only one starter (Makayla Dickens: 12 pts, five assists, five rebounds) score in double figures. Freshman Taylor Soule kicked in an 18-3-5 off the bench, but no other player topped 8 points. In contrast, Notre Dame had all five starters in double digits, led by Arike Ogunbowale’s 24 and a monster outing from Jackie Young (18 points, 13 boards, four dimes, three steals, and a block thrown in for good measure). The result was another dominant win for Muffet McGraw’s squad, who pulled away late and cruised to a 92-63 victory. Boston College travels to Miami on Sunday; Notre Dame heads to a ranked but struggling Tennessee on Thursday.

Wake Forest at No. 4 Louisville: Louisville (17-1, 5-1 ACC) has been demolishing teams since their only loss of the season in South Bend, while Wake Forest (9-9, 0-5 ACC) is currently on a five-game losing skid. The Cardinals made it clear from jump that they did not intend to slack off against the struggling Demon Deacons, racing out to a 19-9 lead at the end of the first quarter. Asia Durr had a relatively quiet day (eight points, three assists, four rebounds), but her teammates more than picked up the slack. Arica Carter tallied a hyper-efficient 12 points (4/7 from deep and 4/8 overall) and Bionca Dunham put up 10 points and three boards. Collectively, Louisville’s 43.3%/40.0%/61.1% shooting splits proved more than enough. They also played ferocious and aggressive defense all game, stifling the Deacs with traps and pressure. With their two best players (Elisa Penna and Alex Sharp) sidelined by injuries, the home team was in for a rough afternoon. There were some bright spots for coach Jen Hoover’s squad, though. Wake handily won the rebounding battle 45-25, and Ivana Raca (11 points, three assists, eight rebounds), Gina Conti (9-5-8), and Kaylen Dickson (nine points) all had fairly good outings. The Deacs got too little , and the Cardinals rolled to a dominant 73-49 win. Next up, Wake Forest travels to Duke on Thursday; Louisville is at Florida State that same day.

North Carolina at Miami: If UNC (10-9, 1-4 ACC) had played this entire game the way they played in the fourth quarter, the Heels would have left Coral Gables with an easy victory. Instead they fell just short, a late surge not being enough to overcome Miami (16-4, 4-1 ACC) after the Canes raced out to a 27-8 lead at the end of the opening period. Stephanie Watts tallied 22 points, 14 boards, five assists and three steals for Carolina before fouling out late in the game, and Paris Kea had a 10-3-4-2 line in those categories. Beatrice Mompremier paced Miami with 18 points and 10 rebounds, and Mykea Gray, Emese Hof, and Laura Cornelius for 37 points and 20 boards. Despite a massive 28-point fourth quarter, UNC simply couldn’t make up the difference after falling into a 42-22 halftime deficit. The Heels whittled the lead down to as few as seven points, but with too little time on the clock, were forced to foul. The Canes had 10 attempts from the stripe in the final 72 seconds and converted eight of them, which proved to be the difference in a 76-68 victory. UNC next heads to Virginia Tech on Thursday; Miami travels to Syracuse on Wednesday.

Clemson at Pitt: Clemson (14-5, 5-1 ACC) has been a bit up and down at times this season, but they’re currently on the favorable side of a five-game win streak. The Tigers’ outstanding trio of Kobi Thornton, Simone Westbrook, and Danielle Edwards have been lighting opponents up, and Amanda Butler’s team needed every ounce of talent they could provide on Sunday. On the road at Pitt (9-10, 0-5 ACC), Clemson got all they could handle in what turned into a low-key heater in the second half. The Panthers may be having a disappointing season, but they came out aggressive and some outstanding performances carried them to a 42-30 lead in the third quarter. Kuaui Bradley put up and impressive 17 points, six boards, two assists, and three blocks, and teammates Cassidy Walsh and Jasmine Whitney and combined for 20 points, 11 dimes, nine rebounds, and a whopping 10 steals. Clemson responded with a monster 61-1 run late in the third quarter, and went into the final frame with a 50-47 lead. The fourth quarter was a rock fight, but the Tigers had just enough to pull out a 65-59 win at  the buzzer. Thornton finished with only nine points and seven rebounds for Clemson, while Edwards had 13 and four assists, and Westbrook put up a 12-7-3 with three steals. The difference in the game was Aliyah Collier, who game off the bench with a thunderous 18 points and six boards to get the Tigers over the finish line. Clemson is on the road next at NC State; Pitt will be at home against Virginia.

Duke at Florida State: This was a wild one. Duke (8-9, 0-5 ACC) managed to outscore FSU (16-2, 4-1 ACC) in three four quarters, and did so in bizarre fashion. The Blue Devils got incredible scoring performances from Haley Gorecki (25 points), Leaonna Odom (20) and Jade Williams (17). And … that’s it. The other five players who saw game action against the ‘Noles on Sunday combined for exactly zero points. Despite those goose eggs in the box score, Duke still outshot Florida State on the day, with 48.0 percent/28.6 percent/80.0 percent shooting splits that far exceeded FSU’s 40.3 percent from the floor, 68.2 percent from the stripe, and (*gulp*) 5.6 percent (1-18) from downtown. And yet, Florida State came away with a 66-62 win anyway. Like their opponents, the ‘Noles also had a trio hit double digits. Kiah Gillespie put up 17  points along with nine rebounds and four assists, Nicki Ekhomu had 14 and six boards, and Valencia Myers had 13 and six. Along with 22 combined points from their other two starters and two bench players, it proved just enough. FSU did the bulk of their damage in the second frame, outscoring the Devils 27-13 to take a lead they would never relinquish. It was a baffling day in many respects for both teams, but Florida State came out on the winning end of this oddity. FSU hosts Louisville next; Duke will host Wake Forest. Both games on Thursday.

Virginia Tech at No. 8 NC State: The afternoon started off with a bang. Virginia Tech (13-5, 0-5 ACC) went into Raleigh to give the still-undefeated Wolkpack their first serious test without Grace Hunter. The Hokies threw a haymaker early, racing out to an 11-4 lead on the strength of great ball movement and even better shooting, with Regan Magarity setting the pace. Then NC State’s Kiara Leslie went to work. Leslie was murder in transition, blowing by Virginia Tech defenders and creating driving lanes out of mere slivers of daylight. She finished the day with a game-high 25 points along with seven rebounds and two assists. Also in double figures for the Wolfpack was Aislinn Konig, who poured in 20 on an efficient 7-18 including 5-12 from behind the arc. Konig is a certified sniper, but Virginia Tech has a roster full of them. The Hokies shot 45.8 percent from deep, including efforts of 3-5 from Kendyl Brooks and 3-4 from Trinity Baptiste, who led her team with 13 points and five rebounds. Taylor Emery also put up 11 points for the Hokies.

The game featured nine lead changes and a frantic last few minutes of regulation. Both teams traded a flurry of buckets, bricks and fiercely contested rebounds under the basket. With the game knotted at 59-all and six seconds left, Emery missed the second of two free throws, leaving NC State with the ball. The Wolfpack’s Erika Cassell missed a shot at the rim with one tic on the clock, and the game headed to overtime. NC State freshman Elissa Cunane scored first in OT, then Magarity tied it right back up again with an answering shot and 2:38 to go. Unfortunately for the Hokies, that would be their last bucket. Konig buried another three, Cunane hit two free throws, and Leslie ended the game drawing two trips to the stripe and converting all four shots. It was a great ending to a phenomenal game, and Division I’s last unbeaten team still held their unblemished record at the final buzzer. Next up, NC State hosts Clemson; Virginia Tech are on the road at UNC.

No. 12 Syracuse at Georgia Tech: When a team is feeling itself as fully as MaChelle Joseph’s squad was yesterday, sometimes there’s nothing anyone, even a very good ranked team, can do to stop it. Syracuse (15-3, 4-1 ACC) did not have a good trip to Atlanta. Georgia Tech (13-6, 3-3 ACC) downed the ranked Orange on the strength of a vicious zone defense and tremendous outings from Kierra Fletcher, Elizabeth Balogun, and Francesca Pan. Fletcher put up 22 points, nine rebounds, seven assists and two steals to lead the Yellow Jackets. Balogun was nearly as impressive, tallying 20 points, seven boards, and six blocks. Pan had 11 points on 4-9 shooting and 10 rebounds off the bench. Georgia Tech held ‘Cuse’s prolific offense (averaging near 80 ppg this year) to just 55 points. They didn’t shut the Orange down completely, though; not even close. Syracuse had runs of 10-0 and 10-2 in the first half, erasing an early Jackets lead and going into intermission up 35-25. Miranda Drummond had a team0high 15 points along with four rebounds and two assists, and Maeva Djaldi-Tabdi had 10 points and six boards in just 25 minutes off the bench. Standout ‘Cuse point guard Tiana Mangakahia had an off shooting day (2-12, 0-4 from three, five points) but still managed to contribute with six rebounds, six assists, and two steals. It wouldn’t be enough.

The second half was all Yellow Jackets. Georgia Tech held the Orange to just 20 points after the break, including a paltry seven in the final frame. On the other end, they slowly chiseled away at the deficit before opening the floodgates with an 11-2 run to end the third quarter only down two. A layup from Mangakahia with seven minutes left gave the Orange a 52-48 advantage, but the Jackets scored nine unanswered points led primarily by Pan (whose treys ignited both late runs) and Fletcher, who hit two shots and six free throws in the final 2:23. Balogun’s layup with 21 seconds left sealed a 65-55 Georgia Tech win, as two late three-pointers from Mangakahia and Drummond both missed the mark. It was among the craziest games in a day packed full of crazy in the ACC and around the country.

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