Last Updated 12:12 AM, November 10, 2021

No. 1 South Carolina women's basketball prevails vs. No. 5 NC State on opening night

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South Carolina's Zia Cooke and Coach Dawn Staley discuss their impressive opening night win
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11:56 pm, November 9, 2021

Final: No. 1 South Carolina 66, No. 5 NC State 57

South Carolina never looked back from the time the ball was tipped off to defeat NC State, 66-57,  leading the entire way on the Wolfpack's home court.  

We thought this matchup would be the battle of the bigs with Aliyah Boston vs. Elissa Cunane, but the All-American posts only put up eights points each. This allowed all focus to shift to the backcourt.

South Carolina's Zia Cooke paced the Gamecocks with 17 points, shooting 6-for-13 from the floor and 4-for-6 from the free-throw line, including a huge three to pull away from NC State in the fourth quarter. Cooke led the charge, but it was a team effort with multiple sparks from its guards to continue South Carolina's momentum. The floor general Destanni Henderson added 14 points throughout the course of the game, while Destiny Littleton knocked down seven points off the bench. 

South Carolina's fast pace offense did an incredible job attacking the basket and remaining aggressive the entire night with a mission to get to the free-throw line. Something NC State did not capitalize on only shooting, 4-for-6 from the charity stripe. 

Overall, a rough shooting start dug an early hole for NC State, but Jakia Brown-Turner and Raina Perez were able to keep the Wolfpack alive with 18 points each. NC State came as close as one point in third quarter and remained competitive, but the Wolfpack couldn't find an answer for South Carolina's aggression on both ends. 

11:48 pm, November 9, 2021

Henderson ➡️ Cooke for THREE!

Destanni Henderson weaves her way through traffic to find Zia Cooke in the corner for a huge three to bring South Carolina back to a double-digit lead, 53-41.
11:21 pm, November 9, 2021

End of 3Q: No. 1 South Carolina 47, No. 5 NC State 39

South Carolina's Laeticia Amihere continues South Carolina's momentum by scoring six out of her eight points down the stretch of the third quarter.

NC State is still looking to take its first lead of the game, and began to push the pace in transition in order to catch momentum against South Carolina. It's been a tough night beyond the arch for both teams, but Jakia Brown-Turner hit a massive three to cut the score down to 45-39. Brown-Turner currently has 16 points, and Raina Perez follows with 13.

11:09 pm, November 9, 2021

No. 5 NC State catches 🔥against No. 1 South Carolina

Back-to-back transition points have allowed NC State to cut the deficit down to one point, heading into a media time out in the third quarter, 35-34. The Wolfpack hasn't led the Gamecocks this entire game. 
10:36 pm, November 9, 2021

Halftime: No. 1 South Carolina 25, No. NC State 19

The paint battle of the non-conference rematch hasn't lived up to its hype, yet. Boston has been held to two points, while Elissa Cunane went scoreless the entire half, sitting on the bench for the majority of the game due to foul trouble. However, Boston has been the anchor on defense, racking up two blocks down low and and ensuring Cunane doesn't receive the ball inside. 

Despite the scoring drought for the two elite post, South Carolina's depth and multiple scoring weapons were able to still produce in the paint to maintain its lead. That's credit to Zia Cooke taking the charge with eight points, shooting 4-for-5 from the floor. Cooke has found crafty ways to get to the basket by using her incredible footwork and patience to get her shot off. 

Unfortunately in the second quarter, the Gamecocks began to cool off and lose control off the ball with 12 turnovers for NC State to remain close. However, South Carolina's Destiny Littleton was the difference-maker, providing a spark off the bench with seven points. 

It's been a struggle so far for NC State's offense, shooting 33 percent. Raina Perez currently leads the Pack with 11 points, while Jakia Brown-Turner adds six. 

10:23 pm, November 9, 2021

End of 1Q: No. 1 South Carolina 16, No. 5 NC State 11

It's been consistent shooting and pure domination in the paint for South Carolina to finish the first quarter, 16-11 against NC State. 10 of the Gamecocks' 16 points have came from the paint. That's credit to South Carolina continuously attacking the paint, led by the force of Zia Cooke who has six points, so far.

As for NC State, Raina Perez is 4-for-4 from the floor, with nine of NC State's 11 points. Unfortunately, cold shooting and turnovers has plagued the Wolfpack with five mistakes. 

 

10:05 pm, November 9, 2021

South Carolina leads NC State 12-6 at the first media time out

South Carolina started out of the tip hot, knocking down its first three shots to take off on a 6-0 run. The scoring drought for NC State lasted for the first three minutes. The Gamecocks used NC State's choice of man-to-man defense to its advantage by attacking the basket, plus getting its go-to scorer Elissa Cunane in foul trouble. Cunane has sat out majority of the first quarter as the Wolfpack trails, 12-6. 

So far, the Gamecocks have been very aggressive from the jump as Boston has racked up two blocks and Victaria Saxton swats one away of her own. 

 

9:52 pm, November 9, 2021

It's almost time for tip-off!

At 5 p.m. ET, No. 1 South Carolina will take on No. 5 NC State in William Neal Reynolds Coliseum in Raleigh, North Carolina.

When these two out of conference teams met last season, the Wolfpack defeated the Gamecocks by double figures in Columbia, South Carolina. Can NC State pull off the upset again tonight?

8:17 pm, January 7, 2021

South Carolina vs. NC State previews from both schools

What better way to tip off the 2021-22 women's college basketball season than with a heated non-conference battle, when No. 1 South Carolina faces No. 5 NC State. 

The set-up of this anticipated game is almost déjà vu of last year's matchup on Dec. 3, when the No. 8 Wolfpack upset No. 1 South Carolina, 54-46

South Carolina shot an uncharacteristic, season-low of 27 percent from the floor in that last matchup. The Gamecocks  finished the year at 44 percent shooting, while outscoring its opponents by a 17.3 plus margin. 

Zia Cooke and Laeticia Amihere were the only players in double-figures for the Gamecocks in last year's loss, recording 11 points each. NC State's Kayla Jones paced the Wolfpack with 16 points as one of the four double-figure scorers. 

The upset boosted NC State up four rankings to No. 4 in the next poll, while knocking the Gamecocks off its No. 1 throne to No. 5. Before then, South Carolina owned the No. 1 spot for the past 12 AP polls that dated back to the 2019-20 season. Expect the Gamecocks to come out with a chip on its shoulder to avenge its lost against the Wolfpack with a goal to remain on top of the rankings this season on its road to March Madness.

We will have a much-anticipated battle between South Carolina's Aliyah Boston and Elissa Cunane in the post. In last year's matchup, Boston was held to an uncharacteristic nine points and nine rebounds, while Cunane filled the stat sheet with 14 points, six rebounds and four blocks.

However, this season Boston will be equipped with some help in the — 6'7 Syracuse transfer Kamilla Cardoso — in hopes to match Cunane's inside presence.  

I believe they will have a great chance to do just that, revamping their squad with tons of weapons, including their entire Final Four squad. But NC State returns its ammunition as well with its entire Sweet 16 lineup returning, plus Rutgers transfer Diamond Johnson. 

Here's a look at the Gamecocks' season preview, courtesy of gamecocksonline.com: 

South Carolina preview

Destanni Henderson
  • With a 16-player roster, South Carolina is three-deep at every position. The group features 11 McDonald's All-Americans, including all five newcomers.
  • The Gamecocks finished last season ranked third in the nation in rebounding margin (+14.4) and second in blocks per game (7.0).
  • Junior Aliyah Boston has been collecting national accolades throughout her career, and she is starting her third season with the same level of recognition. A unanimous First-Team All-American, she was also named to the Lisa Leslie Center Award Watch List — an award she won in each of her first two seasons.
  • Junior Zia Cooke's stellar NCAA tournament outings cemented her national presence. She enters this season as a Preseason Third-Team All-American, according to Lindy's. Cooke also made her second appearance in as many seasons on the Ann Meyers Drysdale Shooting Guard Award Watch List.
  • USA Today moved senior Destanni Henderson into Preseason All-America status, placing her on its second team. She is also on the watch list for the Nancy Lieberman Point Guard Award.
  • Sophomore transfer Kamilla Cardoso earned a spot on the Lisa Leslie Center Award Watch List, her second preseason selection to that list.
  • Freshman Sania Feagin joined in the positional accolades last week, grabbing a spot on the Katrina McClain Power Forward Award Watch List.

BY THE NUMBERS

2 — Two of the Gamecocks' four freshmen earned National Player of the Year honors to cap their high school careers.

3 — Three Gamecocks have earned preseason All-America honors entering the season — Raven Johnson, Saniya Rivers.

North Carolina State preview

Here's more on the host NC State, courtesy of gopack.com

NC State

RALEIGH — After repeating as ACC tournament champion and finishing last season with a 22-3 overall record, NC State women's basketball will begin its 2021-22 season ranked fifth in the first Associated Press (AP) poll of the season.

It marks the highest preseason AP ranking for the program since 1979-80 when it also started that campaign ranked fifth. NC State has now earned a preseason top-five ranking just three times in program history, as it was also tabbed No. 4 in the 1978-79 season.

NC State has been ranked in the AP Top 10 every week since Dec. 9, 2019 and in the AP Top 25 every week since Feb. 5, 2018. The Pack ascended as high as No. 2 in the nation in 2020-21, tying as the best national ranking for the program. The team is coming off a program record-tying No. 3 finish in the AP Poll last season, marking its third-straight top-10 final ranking and its first time putting together such a streak.

For the second year in a row, the Wolfpack enters the season as the reigning ACC Tournament Champion. The team's win in 2021 marked the first back-to-back conference tournament titles in team history. NC State also earned its first-ever No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament last season and reached its third-straight NCAA Sweet 16.

The Pack returns its top eight scorers from last year's team, including four players who averaged double figures, and nearly 94 percent of its total scoring production. All five starters from 2020-21 (Jakia Brown-Turner, Kai Crutchfield, Elissa Cunane, Kayla Jones, Raina Perez) are back with the team, as is ACC Sixth Player of the Year Jada Boyd.

NC State also welcomes a freshman class that was ranked as high as 12th nationally and added transfer sophomores Diamond Johnson (Second Team All-Big Ten) and Madison Hayes (SEC All-Freshman Team), who were both top-30 players coming out of high school.

The Wolfpack opens its 2021-22 season at home on Nov. 9 with a highly-anticipated top-five matchup with top-ranked South Carolina. NC State is also set to take on No. 4 Maryland and No. 8 Indiana during non-conference play. Single-game tickets for all of NC State's non-conference games are on sale now.

5:59 pm, January 7, 2021

South Carolina vs NC State: Cunane vs Boston stat breakdown, team comparison

Aliyah Boston

Grab your popcorn on opening night!

All eyes will be fixed on the paint for an exciting battle between South Carolina's Aliyah Boston and NC State's Elissa Cunane, who are two of the best posts in the nation. Here's a comparison of Boston and Cunane's overall stats from last season:  

Aliyah BOSTON stat Elissa CUNANE
13.7 Points Per Game 16.3
.485 Field Goal % .533
.265 3-point % .387
.764 Free-throw % .843
11.5 Rebounds Per Game 8.3
1.6 Assists Per Game 1.8
1.6 Turnovers Per Game 2.0
1.2 Steals Per Game 0.7
2.6 Blocks 0.9
Elissa Cunane

And here's a look at how the two teams compare from last year's final stats and how they finished in the 2021 NCAA tournament:

South carolina stat NC State
 26-5 (14-2 SEC)  Record (conference games)  22-3 (12-2 ACC)
Final Four 2021 NCAA tournament finish Sweet 16
75.4 Points Per Game 77.2
.438 Field Goal % .470
.337 3-point % .367
.682 Free-throw % .753
47.0 Rebounds Per Game 41.4
12.9 Assists Per Game 15.8
14.1 Turnovers Per Game 12.9
7.2 Steals Per Game 6.4
7.0 Blocks 3.1