The last time North Carolina State women's basketball beat the nation's top-ranked team was at the 2007 ACC tournament. Thursday's upset win over No. 1 South Carolina didn't come during the postseason, though the intensity of the top-10 matchup felt like a mid-March classic. Here's how NC State pulled off the 54-46 win over the top-ranked Gamecocks.
Points came at a premium for both sides on Thursday night. But NC State's defense consistently got stops when it needed them. The Wolfpack held South Carolina's top three scorers — Aliyah Boston, Destanni Henderson and Zia Cooke — to 22 total points on a combined 9-of-45 shooting. South Carolina was held at bay, shooting 27 percent from the floor as NC State controlled the paint defensively. Head coach Wes Moore often had two or even three players down low to disrupt entry passes and limit second-chance opportunities. And he did it without sophomore forward Jada Boyd, who missed the game due to injury. With a lot of the post attention on Boston, South Carolina forward Laeticia Amihere had 11 points and 15 rebounds off the bench, but it was not enough to keep the Gamecocks' 29-game winning streak alive.
While offense was hard to come by, NC State frequently forced South Carolina to play deep into the shot clock and found a number of high-percentage looks down the stretch. The Wolfpack relied on its starting lineup for all of the scoring as four players finished in double figures. Forwards Kayla Jones and Jakia Brown-Turner posted double-doubles as Jones led all scorers with 16 points. Brown-Turner added 11 points while both pulled down 12 boards. Junior center Elissa Cunane chipped in 14 points and four blocks while Raina Perez stepped in for the injured Boyd to score 11 points and dish out four assists in her first start of the year.
Capitalizing on opportunity
This game came down to the little things, all of which NC State had an edge in. We're talking about turnovers, fouls and free throws. The Wolfpack turned the ball over nine times to South Carolina's 11 while committing only 12 fouls. Moore relied heavily on his starters and they responded with a style of play that kept them out of foul trouble while not allowing the Gamecocks to create distance on the scoreboard. The biggest difference, however, came at the free throw line. South Carolina was 4-off-11 at the stripe. Alternatively, NC State was 10-for-12 from the line as the Wolfpack upset the No. 1 team.