Durand Scott scored a career-high 32 points to help No. 9 Miami beat North Carolina State 81-71 on Saturday in the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament semifinals, earning its first trip to the championship game.
Shane Larkin added 23 for the top-seeded Hurricanes (26-6), who led the entire way and by 19 points late in the first half. Miami shot 46 percent behind Scott, a senior guard who went 12-for-18 from the field and 5-for-8 from 3-point range.
Scott also had a couple of big shots that shut down comeback bids from the fifth-seeded Wolfpack (24-10), who got as close as six after halftime but couldn't dig out of that big hole.
Miami also controlled the boards to score 18 second-chance points to go with 15 points off turnovers.
Now the Hurricanes can turn their attention to adding a tournament title to go with their first regular-season crown in Sunday's final.
Scott Wood scored 21 points with six three-pointers to lead N.C. State, which was in the semifinals for the second straight season. But both times, coach Mark Gottfried's team ran into a No. 1 seed that denied the Wolfpack a chance to win the program's first tournament title since 1987 under Jim Valvano.
"I thought we had good energy," State coach Mark Gottfried said. "Sometimes we don't play well we don't make shots. It's not about energy or playing hard. Our guys played extremely
hard. We just couldn't get the ball to go in the basket. Richard [Howell] was like he always is, he fought through [a thigh injury.]
"I thought he was hampered a little bit. Like I said before, you get to this time of the year and
everybody is banged up a little bit and you ﬁght through it. I thought Richard gave us great effort and these guys gave us great effort and our guys kept playing hard."
Scott scored 19 points in the first half, the last coming when he hit two free throws to give Miami its biggest lead at 39-20. N.C. State closed with a flurry to cut the deficit to 12 at half then got as close as 50-44 on Wood's 3-pointer with 12 minutes left to re-energize a home-state crowd that had gone silent with Miami's early dominance.
But Scott answered with a straightaway 3, holding his release long after the ball swished through the net. Then Larkin banked in a pullup shot to push the margin back to double figures.
Scott did it again a few minutes later, hitting a 3 over freshman Rodney Purvis as the shot clock wound down then holding his form again as the Hurricanes went up 13 with 7½ minutes left.
"At the start, I didn't do a good enough job of pressuring him," said State's Wood, who guarded Scott much of the game. "We let him get into his comfort zone and after a couple of shots go down they're tough to guard. I have to do a better job of pressuring him and getting him out of his comfort zone so he didn't get that comfort he needed."
The Wolfpack twice more got the deficit to single digits in the final 2 minutes, but Larkin hit four straight free throws to answer those baskets then rebounded C.J. Leslie's missed jumper that signaled an end to the Wolfpack's run.
Miami won the only regular-season meeting 79-78 on Reggie Johnson's tip-in with 0.8 seconds left, though Purvis very nearly made a shot from beyond halfcourt - the ball hit the rim and rattled out - at the horn.
That was N.C. State's first full game without point guard Lorenzo Brown due to an ankle injury and came in the middle of a three-game skid that took the preseason ACC favorite Wolfpack out of the regular-season title chase.
Brown was back to drive the Wolfpack's transition attack this time, but finished with six points but went 0-for-6 from the field with five of the team's 14 turnovers. N.C. State shot 57 percent after halftime and 50 percent for the game, but never could recover from a bad start that saw the Wolfpack go scoreless for the first 5½ minutes.