Miami's Victory Sets Up Well for Hokies

By Adam Kilgore
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, March 14, 2008

CHARLOTTE, March 13 -- Fifth-seeded Miami earned the right to play Virginia Tech in the second round of the ACC tournament with a sluggish 63-50 victory Thursday over 12th-seeded North Carolina State.

The Hurricanes withstood 27 points from North Carolina State freshman forward J.J. Hickson despite getting only eight from its first-team all-ACC point guard, Jack McClinton.

Miami, if it hadn't already, virtually guaranteed itself a spot in the NCAA tournament. The Hokies still have work to do, but Miami's victory helped them because Virginia Tech has not beaten a top 50 opponent in six tries.

Going into the game, Miami, which defeated the Hokies, 74-71, on Feb. 9 in Blacksburg, Va., carried a No. 27 ranking in the Ratings Percentage Index, which is used by NCAA selectors to judge the strength of teams vying for at-large bids in the tournament. North Carolina State finished last in the ACC and was ranked 95 in the RPI. Virginia Tech still likely needs both a victory over Miami and another win Saturday in the ACC semifinals to make the tournament, but playing the Hurricanes gives the Hokies a sliver of hope they could earn a berth with just one win because of Miami's RPI strength.

The Hokies also avoided a nemesis. The Wolfpack had defeated Virginia Tech six consecutive games, including in last year's ACC tournament. On Thursday, N.C. State finished a disappointing season with an embarrassing defeat, its school-record ninth straight. Hickson outscored his teammates, 27-23, the first time that's happened at the ACC tournament since 1980.

The trouble for Virginia Tech is actually finding a way to beat the Hurricanes, who proved Thursday how dangerous and versatile they can be, albeit against a deadbeat opponent. McClinton did not make a field goal until less than five minutes remained, but the Hurricanes still led by double digits throughout.

N.C. State double-teamed McClinton coming off of screens, denying him the ball. But the Wolfpack left Miami's underrated post players -- Anthony King, Dwayne Collins and Jimmy Graham -- uncovered, and the Hurricanes scored 24 points close to the basket.

"They're great players," McClinton said. "They might not get the shine I do. But if you know basketball, you see the stuff they do. They all bring something different."

In their first matchup, Miami crushed -- Hokies Coach Seth Greenberg's word -- Virginia Tech in rebounding, 35-20, and McClinton scored 19 points in a game that was decided on a missed three-point shot at the buzzer.

"Everybody came with their hard hats," Graham said. "It's going to be the same way tomorrow."

¿ FLORIDA STATE 70, WAKE FOREST 60: Jason Rich scored 17 of his 21 points in the second half to lead the ninth-seeded Seminoles in the first round.

Ralph Mims added 16 points for Florida State (19-13), which shot 45 percent to win its league tournament opener for the second straight year. The Seminoles will play North Carolina on Friday.

Jeff Teague scored 15 points to lead Wake Forest (17-13).

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

© 2008 The Washington Post Company