By AARON BEARD, Associated Press
GREENSBORO, N.C. (AP) — Duke and Miami went from playing for the Atlantic Coast Conference regular-season championship a week ago to making surprise early exits from the league tournament.
The ACC tournament lost its top two seeds — in back-to-back games, no less — before the semifinal round for the first time ever. North Carolina State ended the fifth-ranked Blue Devils' two-year title run, then Wake Forest topped the seventh-ranked Hurricanes in Friday's chaotic quarterfinals.
It marked the first time the top two seeds have lost on the same day in the tournament since No. 1 Duke and No. 2 Virginia lost in the semifinals in 1999.
Duke beat Miami 74-64 in Cameron Indoor Stadium to clinch the top seed on Feb. 24, and the teams combined to go 29-3 in league regular-season play. Now, sixth-ranked and third-seeded Maryland is the highest remaining seed in a quartet of No. 15 and fourth-seeded Georgia Tech, seventh-seeded Wake Forest and ninth-seeded N.C. State.
The Blue Devils hadn't lost a tournament opener since 1994 and hadn't lost a tournament game since falling to Maryland in the 2009 final. They beat N.C. State in the championship game the following year, but couldn't extend their five-year winning streak against the determined Wolfpack and lost 75-73.
Duke had played for the championship the past four tournaments.
"It's been wonderful to be in Greensboro and stay and all of those things," Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie said. "But this is what's happened and it's up to us to take ownership of it and to never forget it. I don't want them to forget what just happened because it's an important lesson to learn."
In the next game, Wake Forest outscored Miami 19-4 to close the first half and take a 15-point halftime lead. After Miami fought back, the Demon Deacons ran off seven straight points in a tie game to go ahead for good and win 81-74.
It was another frustrating exit for Katie Meier's Hurricanes, who were the No. 2 seed last year but fell to sixth-seeded North Carolina by 26 in the semifinals. And Meier was so frustrated with her team's first-half play that she wasn't going to pat her players on the back for their second-half comeback.
"They did what they needed to do to beat us," Meier said. "They played very, very well, but that first half, I didn't know my team. I didn't like them. The score was very indicative of our effort."
Throw in fifth-seeded North Carolina's one-point loss to Georgia Tech in the first quarterfinal, and it marked the first time since 1991 that both the Tar Heels and Blue Devils failed to reach the semifinals.
Instead, the other two North Carolina-based programs are the ones still alive in Greensboro. N.C. State will meet Georgia Tech in Saturday's first semifinal, while Wake Forest will meet Maryland in the second.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.