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Mike Lopresti | | December 3, 2021

Kim Mulkey earns statement win at LSU, NC State's revenge and unexpected blowouts from two thrilling days of women's basketball

Women's basketball rankings: NC State rises in latest Power 10

Well, wasn’t that an eventful 48 hours in women’s college basketball? Revenge, upsets, unexpected blowouts, and even an unranked team finally taking down a top-10 opponent after 47 missed opportunities.

Consider some of the headlines from Wednesday and Thursday, possibly as vibrant two days of non-conference play as this season will see:

North Carolina State’s payback ...

How’s that old proverb go, revenge is a dish best served cold? Or in this case, with cold shooting. The No. 2 Wolfpack’s defense made life difficult for No. 6 Indiana on the Hoosiers’ home court in a 66-58 win. That didn’t fully wash away the bad taste of getting ambushed by Indiana in the Sweet 16 last March, but it was still fulfilling. North Carolina State is now 7-1 on a schedule that included No. 1 South Carolina, No. 2 Maryland and No. 6 Indiana in the first eight games.

N.C. State fun fact No. 1: Kayla Jones leading the cause with 17 points and 11 rebounds was the perfect subplot, since she had to miss that Sweet 16 game with a knee injury. Matter of fact, of the 10 starters for the two teams Thursday night, she was the only one who wasn’t also in the lineups for the NCAA tournament meeting. When Thursday’s game began, there were two graduate students, six seniors and two juniors on the floor.

N.C. State fun fact No. 2: With 2:50 left a tight game – the biggest lead by either team had been five points – the Wolfpack defense had truly done a job on every Indiana player not named Mackenzie Holmes. She was 9-for-12. All the other Hoosiers were 9-for-46.

WATCH: Maryland coach Brenda Frese says team plans to 'complete the mission' this season 

Louisville’s defense ...

The numbers were stunning in the 70-48 wipeout by the No. 10 Cardinals over No. 12 Michigan. The Wolverines committed 24 turnovers and were outscored in points off turnovers, 32-11. Michigan had only two more field goals (17) than Louisville had steals (15). At halftime, with the Cardinals rolling 39-15, Emily Engstler had only two fewer steals by herself (four) than the entire Wolverine team had field goals (six). Big Ten Player of the Year Naz Hillmon was held to nine shots and 12 points for Michigan, 10 below her average.

You get the idea. But then, that has been standard operating procedure for Louisville, whose 6-1 record has been built by allowing only 30.8 field goal percentage and 43.6 points a game. In one recent suffocating stretch, the Cardinals gave up 55 points. In two games.

"We have to be known as a defensive team. We’ve got to disrupt things,” coach Jeff Walz said. “We can’t let people just get into their offense, make passes wherever they want. We’ve got to get them outside of their comfort zone.”

Yeah, the Wolverines looked pretty uncomfortable Thursday night, when Louisville went on a 37-8 tear in the first half.

Walz also wants fire from his Cardinals. He was annoyed when Engstler drew part of double foul when things became a little warm on the court, so he delivered a brief post-game address on what he feels the women’s game needs.

“It’s frustrating to me in many ways. Let the kids play,” he said. “Now if they start getting in each other’s face, fine (call a technical). But people that come out to watch women’s basketball, they want to see them compete. It’s not a 'Hey, if I knock you down, hold on, I’ll help you up, are you OK, I’ll dust you off.' We aren’t dunking, so you’re not getting that play. But if I block a shot and it goes out of bounds, let them talk a little bit.

“Emily hits a three and it got a little chippy, she holds her follow-through and they told her, 'Hey, can’t do that.’ In the men’s game they don’t even think twice about that ... If we want to continue to grow our game, we have to let them play with emotion, that’s what fans want to see. Unless I’m wrong.”

Duke’s return ...

This time last year, COVID was shutting down the Blue Devils’ season after four games. They’re back. And they’re 7-0 after blowing past No. 9 Iowa 79-64 Thursday night.

Until that moment, unranked teams had been 0-47 this season against top-10 opponents. It was yet another tour de defense for an ACC team as the Blue Devils held the nation’s third-highest scoring team 24 points under its average. The Hawkeyes particularly struggled from the 3-point line, going 3-for-19. All-American Caitlin Clark was 1-for-13.

But then, Iowa’s shooting woes were understandable, coming off a COVID hiatus. The Hawkeyes had not played – and rarely practiced – the previous two weeks. “We missed three games that were supposed to prepare us for this team,” coach Lisa Bluder said. “This is not an Iowa performance that we are proud of, and we need to regroup because we open up Big Ten play on Sunday.”

No, this was not the time to wander into Cameron Indoor Stadium to face a Duke team that has shown tenacity on defense to go with outside firepower. The 62 3-pointers in their first seven games are a school record. “Our community is going to fall in love with our team,” coach Kara Lawson said. Duke likely won’t be unranked much longer.

WATCH: The Kara Lawson era continues in Durham with winning on the mind

Maryland’s rebounding ...

The No. 8 Terps piled up a 48-22 rebounding dominance against Miami with a 26-7 gap in second chance points. They needed it all to fight off the Hurricanes 82-74 after 16 ties and 11 lead changes. A home defeat would have set off alarm bells at Maryland, after consecutive defeats by ranked opponents North Carolina State and Stanford.

Miami has been a trouble-maker for Big Ten top-10 teams lately, chasing Indiana to the buzzer before losing 53-51.

ACC dominance ...

It’s a good thing for the Big Ten that Maryland held on and Purdue beat Georgia Tech at the buzzer, or that 10-4 drubbing in the Big East/ACC Challenge would have looked even more dreary. Northwestern and Nebraska were the only other winners from a league that sent five top-19 teams into the event, with four of them beaten.

Notre Dame’s bench ...

There was more good news and good defense for the ACC against the Big Ten when Notre Dame defeated Michigan State 76-71, with 29 points off the bench from freshman Sonia Citron. Citron has been one reason the Irish have built a 195-111 advantage in bench points for their 7-1 record.

The defense has been of help, too. Michigan State came in fourth in country in field goal percentage at 50.5. The Spartans managed only 36.1 percent on their home floor Thursday night. The dip in the road for Notre Dame women’s basketball – from six national championship game appearances in nine years to 13-18 and 10-10 the past two seasons – appears to be over.

Syracuse’s offense ...

Ohio State scored 33 points in the fourth quarter Wednesday night.  Normally that would be plenty to win, but Syracuse scored 32 and had been hotter earlier, so the Orange upended the No. 18 Buckeyes 97-91.

The same Syracuse team that went 0-3 in the Bahamas fired a triple-barreled attack at Ohio State. Teisha Hyman scored 30 points, Chrislyn Carr 23 and Naje Murray 21. Carr’s contribution was the most dramatic, since 22 of the 23 points came in the fourth quarter.

The Carrier Dome was the place to be for offense this week. The day before this shootout, the Syracuse men outlasted Indiana in two overtimes 112-10. Four teams, two games, 410 points.

Princeton’s upset ...

The Tigers had lost 25 games in a row against ranked opponents going back nearly 44 years. Then they went to Florida Gulf Coast Wednesday and clipped the No. 22 Eagles 58-55, surviving a game that had six lead changes in the fourth quarter.

Florida Gulf Coast came in averaging 84 points a game.

UT Arlington’s history ...

As far as any record checking could find, the Mavericks had never beaten a ranked opponent. They have now, upending No. 13 South Florida 61-56. UT Arlington had been 0-28 against ranked teams going back to 1999.

The Mavericks’ defense was so good, it didn’t matter they went 0-for-8 from behind the arc, finishing a game without a 3-pointer for the first time in nearly 10 years.

“I can’t even describe the feeling,” said Claire Chastain, who helped seal the game with late free throws. That’s her custom. She is 21-from-25 from the line in the fourth quarter and overtime this season.

Kim Mulkey’s coming out party ...

The Mulkey era at LSU truly arrived when the Tigers swept aside No. 14 Iowa State 69-60 in Baton Rouge. It was LSU’s first home win over a non-conference, ranked opponent since 2014.

Iowa State coach Bill Fennelly has had a fine career but can’t be unhappy to see Mulkey away from Baylor and out of his conference. This made him 6-31 against Mulkey teams.

Coming off a 9-13 season, Mulkey’s first team moved to 6-1, and a crowd of 5,810 was there to see it. “Students were lined up, circled around the top,” she said. “This is another one of those little milestones that help us rebuild a program.”

So it was a memorable night. These were the right two days for it.

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