Alvine Mendeng's frustration was evident. Whistled for a foul after running over Virginia's Anna Crosswhite in the closing minutes of tonight's ACC tournament quarterfinal, the North Carolina State junior slammed the ball to the floor in frustration. Crosswhite and the Cavaliers apparently had no intention of surrendering their 12-point lead.
"I didn't want to go home after today," Crosswhite said. "It couldn't happen that way."
Virginia won't have to go home just yet after it pulled off the third-largest halftime comeback in ACC tournament history in a 66-56 win. Trailing by 10 at halftime, the Cavaliers outscored the Wolfpack 42-22 after halftime.
"The entire second half was frustrating for us," North Carolina State Coach Kay Yow said. "We were trying to battle through that, get stronger, play better to find a run of our own."
That run never materialized; instead, third-seeded Virginia (16-12) closed the game with a 24-14 run after the sixth-seeded Wolfpack (11-17) tied the score at 42 midway through the second half. N.C. State hit 9 of 36 shots in the second half and was outrebounded 51-36.
In the first half "we were going too fast," said Cavaliers Coach Debbie Ryan, whose team gave its NCAA tournament chances another boost with its sixth straight win. "At halftime, we just talked about getting back to what got us here: playing good defense, rebounding and running with the basketball as much as possible. That's really what we did."
Virginia, which has won nine of 11, advances to play second-seeded North Carolina (26-4) in Sunday's 3:30 p.m. semifinal. The Cavaliers upset UNC six days ago in Charlottesville, 69-59, after losing 74-54 in Chapel Hill on Jan. 30.
Sunday's first semifinal will pit top-seeded Duke (29-1) against fifth-seeded Georgia Tech (20-9).
Sophomore center Brandi Teamer led the Cavaliers with 20 points and 10 rebounds, besting her Wolfpack counterpart, fellow all-ACC second-teamer Kaayla Chones (three points, five rebounds).
The Cavaliers' 24 points and 32 percent shooting in the first half weren't too bad by the standards they have set this season, but tonight they added uncharacteristic problems on defense as well. In the final three minutes, North Carolina State boosted its 25-23 lead to 34-24 at the break.
Virginia's defense was back in top form at the beginning of the second half, sparking a 15-2 run that resulted in a 39-36 lead. They surged a few minutes later by holding the Wolfpack scoreless for 6 minutes 8 seconds during a 14-0 run that boosted the margin to 56-42 with four minutes remaining.
"We definitely didn't [work as hard] in the first half, which is why we were down 10 points," Crosswhite said.
* UNC 80, CLEMSON 71: Candace Sutton had a season-high 20 points nine rebounds to lead the No. 11 Tar Heels (26-4).
* GEORGIA TECH 64, FLORIDA ST. 59: Fallon Stokes scored a game-high 18 points and the Yellow Jackets (20-9) held off the Seminoles.