Duke, Wake Forest advance in ACC Women’s Tournament

The Blue Devils and Deacons both staged second-half comebacks to advance to the second round at Greensboro Coliseum

Duke's Celeste Taylor scores over Pittsburgh's Taisha Exanor during the Blue Devils' opening round ACC Tournament victory on Wednesday. (PJ Ward-Brown / North State Journal)

GREENSBORO — Duke and Wake Forest both came from behind to survive and advance in the opening round of the ACC Women’s Basketball Tournament at Greensboro Coliseum on Wednesday.

The 10th-seeded Blue Devils trailed by as many as 16 points early before battling their way back for a 55-52 victory against 15th-seeded Pittsburgh. The win earned coach Kara Lawson’s team a second round date against seventh-seeded Miami at 6 p.m. Thursday.

The 11th-seeded Deacons, meanwhile, rallied from an eight-point halftime deficit to beat No. 14 Virginia 61-53 and earn a second round matchup with sixth-seeded Georgia Tech at 8:30 p.m. Thursday.

Thirteenth-seeded Clemson beat No. 12 Syracuse 88-69 in the opening game of the day and will play fifth-seeded Virginia Tech.

The other second round game Thursday will match No. 8 Boston College against No. 9 Florida State.

Top-seeded NC State, No. 2 Louisville, No. 3 Notre Dame and No. 4 North Carolina all have byes into Friday’s quarterfinals.

Duke 55, Pittsburgh 52

Shayeann Day-Wilson scored 22 points, hitting one of several critical baskets down the stretch, to lead the Blue Devils past the Panthers.

Destiny Strother’s tying 3-pointer rimmed out at the buzzer.

Duke (17-12) only made four 3-pointers, but two came in the fourth quarter — including one by Day-Wilson, the ACC Freshman of the Year, at the 1:10 mark to push the lead to 53-49. Then Elizabeth Balogun hit a step-back bucket at the shot-clock buzzer to make it 55-51 with 21.5 seconds to go.

Twice in the final 90 seconds, Pitt went to the line but only made 1 of 2 free throws. Duke missed a pair with six seconds left, giving Pitt, which led by 16 points in the second quarter, one last chance.

Celeste Taylor added 11 points for the Blue Devils.

Liatu King scored 13 points for Pittsburgh (11-19), which dropped its 10th straight game, and Dayshanette Harris added 11.

A 10-0 run in the first quarter helped the Panthers take a 20-9 lead. Harris’ 3-pointer made it 28-12 in the second quarter but a 10-3 finish allowed Duke to pull within 31-22 at the half.

An 8-0 Duke run to close the third quarter cut the Pitt lead to 40-39. Day-Wilson’s basket with 1:47 to play gave Duke a 50-48 lead. That’s when Pitt only made 1 of 2 from the line.

Free throws were a problem all game as the Panthers finished 6 of 17, including 4 of 9 in the fourth quarter. Duke also struggled, going 13 of 22.

Wake Forest 61, Virginia 53

Jewel Spear scored 15 of her 23 points in the second half to spark the late run that extended Wake Forest’s season.

Jewel Spear scores two of her game-high 23 points in Wake Forest’s ACC Tournament win against Virginia on Wednesday. (PJ Ward-Brown / North State Journal)

Olivia Summiel’s 3-pointer with 5:32 to play gave the Deacons (15-15) their first lead since early in the second quarter at 51-50. It also started a game-closing 14-2 run as the Cavaliers went cold, missing their last five shots.

Christina Morra scored 13 points and grabbed 10 rebounds for the Deacons, who finally found their shooting range in the fourth quarter, going 7 of 12 and still finished the game at just 42%.

Spear had five 3-pointers, moving her to second on the school’s single-season list with 88, nine behind the leader. She helped her team overcome 20 turnovers, 10 more than Virginia.

Virginia (5-22) has lost five straight in the series the Cavaliers lead 69-9.

Mir McLean and London Clarkson both scored 11 points for the Cavaliers, but the team only shot 33%, going 4 of 12 in the fourth quarter.

Spear hit a pair of 3-pointers in the first quarter to help Wake Forest take a 12-11 lead, but the Deacons went cold in the second quarter. They didn’t get a basket after Niyah Becker tied the game at 18 at the 6:14 mark.

Spear scored 12 points in the third quarter to keep Wake Forest in the game.

Virginia didn’t light it up, shooting 19% in the first quarter and 27.5% for the half, but Wake Forest missed it last six shots and had 11 turnovers to the Cavs’ two.

Clemson 88, Syracuse 69

Delicia Washington had 33 points and 11 rebounds for her fifth double-double of the season and Clemson (9-21) beat Syracuse.

Clemson went ahead by double figures for good during a 12-1 run early in the fourth quarter to build a 72-57 lead. Washington, who was named to the first-team All-ACC on Monday, scored eight points in the frame and the Tigers closed on an 8-0 run.

Hannah Hank scored a season-high 17 points with eight rebounds and Amari Robinson added 12 points and nine rebounds for Clemson. Daisha Bradford had 11 points. Washington was 12 of 24 from the field, with 20 points coming in the second half.