Demon Deacons record major upset, Carolina, NC State and Miami advance

Wake Forest – 65
Florida State – 54

NC State – 83
Syracuse – 58

Clemson – 58
UNC – 68

Boston College – 69
Miami – 84

It was not supposed to happen this way.

I went into Day 2 of the Women’s ACC Basketball Tournament pulling for Wake Forest. But I didn’t have high hopes for them against Florida State University, a high-scoring 5-seed with lots of firepower. FSU led the regular season in offensive scoring, by a lot: 2,509 total points, more than 350 ahead of second-place Notre Dame and more than 1,600 ahead of Wake, which placed last in that category. They also led the ACC in offensive rebounds, blocked shots and defensive rebounds.

Out the gate they smothered the Demon Deacons with tight formations and crisp passes, outscoring their opponents in the first quarter 21-14 and holding Wake to just two points in the second quarter, making a halftime score of 34-16.

But! Wake rallied after the half to outscore FSU 29-8 in the third quarter, affecting the first lead change of the game after an 18-0 run built on hustle and good fortune. A rash of three-pointers in the fourth quarter from Wake senior forward Olivia Summiel and strong play from junior guard Jewel Spear — 19 points and 7 rebounds — gave the Deacons the first major upset of the tournament. It was the second-biggest comeback in ACC Women’s Tourney history. Duke set the record, if you must know, coming back from a 20-point deficit against Virginia in 1995.

They’ll face off against 4-seed Louisville tomorrow. But after taking down a 5-seed, the challenge does not seem insurmountable.

I kept my eye on junior forward Demeara Hines, a force on the court who dropped 12 points and nabbed 9 rebounds, as well as sixth player Niyah Becker, a senior forward whose determined and disruptive style of play makes her my favorite on the team. But it was sophomore guard Jewel Spear who carried the day, dropping all of her 19 points in the second half.

The women’s game is supposed to be more about teamwork than individual players — fundamentals like ball-handling, set plays and shooting become more important when there’s not much threat of a posterizing dunk at any given minute. But Day 2 of the ACC Women’s Tournament is bristling with personalities.

No team exemplifies this better than 8-seed NC State right now. They have won this tournament the last three years but this time must compete without one of their best players, junior guard Diamond Johnson, out with an ankle injury. Johnson led the team in assists during the regular season (77) and points (271) even after missing a few games because of the ankle.

What’s left is a slate of very good players who must find a way to make up for those lost points.

Syracuse, a 9-seed, has a big player of their own: senior guard Dyaisha Fair. She’s small, just 5-foot-5, with square shoulders and a devastating quickness. During the regular season she was responsible for almost 20 points per game, more than 100 rebounds and an astonishing 128 assists.

But despite a few tight moments, the game wasn’t even close. Fair couldn’t hit her shots, going 4-17 from the field and 1-5 from 3-point range. She still scored 11 points and clocked 6 assists, but it wasn’t enough. On the NC State side, five players scored in the double digits — 16 apiece from senior wing Jakiya Brown-Turner and senior center Camille Hobby, with the 6-foot-5 center River Baldwin, a graduate student, going 7 for 7 from the low post.

NC State polled ahead halfway through the first quarter and stayed there. In the end, it wasn’t close: 83-58.

Is there a better exemplar of team before player than the Tarheels of UNC-Chapel Hill? Sure there is: Duke! But the Blue Devils won’t play until tomorrow, so for now we’re stuck with the ’Heels, a 7-seed this year who faced Clemson in the third game of the day.

I gave Clemson short shrift yesterday in their convincing win against Pitt, and they deserve better. Bet let’s be real: No one wanted Clemson to win this game tonight, because a UNC win would mean a classic Tobacco Road showdown: Duke v Carolina in the heart of the Old North State. People love that shit, especially the TV network, the ACC and the Greensboro Coliseum, but also just about everyone else who doesn’t love Clemson, and probably even some of them. Clemson, however, refused to lay down for this one, staying within 10 points until the last 2 minutes, when they dropped down by 11.

In the end, the Tarheels fulfilled their destiny with double-digit scoring from junior guard KennedyTodd-Williams (12), junior guard Deja Kelly (14), redshirt senior guard Eva Hodgson (13) and the relentless junior utility player Alyssa Ustby (15), who is big enough to be a froward but with speed and a hot hand like a backcourt player.

Final score, 68-58.

So we’ll have a Duke-Carolina matchup tomorrow. Am I burying the lede? Perhaps, but I’ve always said Wake Forest is the team for the discerning Triad ACC fan.

Which brings me to the Cavinder twins, sophomore guards Haley and Hannah. Haley is the best player on the team, leading Miami in regular season scoring with 372 and assists at 73. Hannah’s stats are a bit less impressive, but together the two have amassed more than 4.3 million TikTok followers with dance videos, makeup tutorials and glimpses into their personal lives that have already earned them more than $1 million in endorsements.

On the court against Boston College, Haley was a dervish: a force in the backcourt and a complete nuisance on defense. She ended the night with 14 points and 9 rebounds, and a host of other things that don’t show up on the stat sheet.

And what of Boston College’s magnificent sophomore center, Maria Gakdeng? She got shut down by Miami’s 6-footers, including freshman forward Kyla Oldacre and senior forward Lola Pendande, who were good for 7 and 15 points, respectively.

Miami takes on 3-seed Virginia Tech tomorrow.

How’s my bracket doing? Glad you asked. I picked three of four games today, and I didn’t even mind that I had Wake Forest losing because I’m so happy to see them advance. Surely they will meet their end against 4-seed Louisville tomorrow, right?

Join the First Amendment Society, a membership that goes directly to funding TCB‘s newsroom.

We believe that reporting can save the world.

The TCB First Amendment Society recognizes the vital role of a free, unfettered press with a bundling of local experiences designed to build community, and unique engagements with our newsroom that will help you understand, and shape, local journalism’s critical role in uplifting the people in our cities.

All revenue goes directly into the newsroom as reporters’ salaries and freelance commissions.

⚡ Join The Society ⚡