Louisville, KY—NCST (12-1, 7-1 ACC) must have eaten their lucky charms cereal this season knocking off the Gamecocks earlier in the contest when South Carolina were No.1. Luck as you would have it struck again for the Wolfpacks, they used a stingy defense to beat No. 1 Louisville for its first loss of the season, 74-60 on Monday night at the KFC Yum Center.
NCST tightened the perimeter on Louisville, compounding the Cardinals’ struggle from the field by shutting down all the passing lanes. There were few second opportunities for the Cardinals and it helped the Wolfpack to extend its lead in the half.
Elissa Cunane, the All-American junior center, who was unstoppable on the blocks made 7 of 9 shots and snatched six boards. She had missed the Wolfpack’s previous two games, including a loss to the Hoakies on Thursday, after NCST returned from a three-week mini vacation because of Covid-19.
“It feels so good,” Cunane said, beaming. “We were ready for this moment. We knew going on the road to play the No. 1 was going to be hard but we did it before. So we just prepared. We knew we had to have energy and go into like we know what we’re doing.”
The game was knotted at 18-18 after the first quarter but NCST used the high-low game to set the tone, outrebounding Louisville 44-29 as Kayla Jones had 13 rebounds. North Carolina State led by as many as 18 points in the second half against the Cardinals and was never in jeopardy of losing. (9-1 ACC).
N.C. State led 29-25 at the break before building its first double-digit lead in the third and extending its advantage to as many as 18 points in the fourth quarter. Perez set the tone by knocking down open shots on the wings. It was their first victory at Louisville in nearly four years.
“I was so excited,” Cunane said. “I wasn’t winded at all. I was just running out there. I had too much energy. Coach had to tell me to calm down a little bit.”
Wolfpack coach Wes Moore turned Raina Perez, Boyd, and Brown Turner loose in the second half. Brown-Turner and Boyd had 16 points a piece, and Perez’s 15 and made a team-high three three-pointers.
“We can go pretty far,” Perez said. “We can go as far as we want. Beating another No. 1 team motivates us and I’m excited to see where we can take this.”
Louisville’s Dana Evans had 29 points, with five 3-pointers. But the Wolfpack limited the Cardinals to 38.3 percent shooting from the field, slowed down Louisville’s transition game and held it to a season-low 60 points.
In the second half, State’s offense found their shooting touch as NCST shot 16-29 over the final 20 minutes to secure a easy win over Louisville. NC State doubled its lead from five to 10 points after 90 seconds of play in the fourth quarter, and Louisville couldn’t knock down shots to mount a serious threat.
The Wolfpack also limited a very-accurate Cardinals’ offense to just 36.6% shooting from the field. Louisville had just one impact player tonight—Dana Evans,—which wasn’t enough to overcome NC State’s balanced scoring attack.
“Having four people in double figures and a lot of people contributing, it was just a great team win,” N.C. State coach Wes Moore said. “Really proud of them.”
NC State head coach Wes Moore’s is in his eighth year leading the Wolfpack and is 179-62 (74 percent) since taking over the program. Moore’s won 737 games in his career. In his eight seasons in Raleigh, Moore has led the Pack to 21 wins over ranked teams. Those victories include No. 2 Notre Dame in the 2016-2017 season and top-ranked South Carolina earlier this year.
N.C. State: Visits rival North Carolina on Sunday, the first of two meetings with the Tar Heels.
Louisville: At Boston College on Thursday night, seeking a season sweep of the Eagles.