Cunane leads No. 9 Wolfpack women to 90-56 rout of Irish

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) — North Carolina State rebounded from its first loss of the season with a performance that left Notre Dame’s Hall of Fame coach in tears.

Elissa Cunane scored 22 points and had 10 rebounds for her ninth double-double of the season, and No. 9 North Carolina State trounced Notre Dame 90-56 on Sunday.

“Our plan was to come in here at the jump and play with a lot of energy,” said the 6-foot-5 Cunane, who recorded her ninth double-double of the season while playing just 25 minutes for the Wolfpack (15-1, 4-1 Atlantic Coast Conference). “I’m playing hard right now and my teammates are feeding me the ball and I’m able to get rebounds.”

Jada Boyd scored 16 points, Kayla Jones added 15 and Kai Crutchfield scored 13 for N.C. State, which shot 57% (34 of 60) for the game after shooting 38% in its 66-60 loss at North Carolina last Thursday.

“We’ve been pretty consistent with our defense and our rebounding,” Moore said. “If you do those things, it will limit bad streaks because you can’t always shoot it well.”

The Wolfpack outrebounded the Fighting Irish 44-31 and also limited the Irish to 34% shooting (23 of 68).

Katlyn Gilbert scored a career-high 25 points and Destinee Walker had 11 for Notre Dame (6-11, 1-4), which suffered its fifth straight home loss and seventh of the season at Purcell Pavilion, both low marks in Muffet McGraw’s 33 seasons on the Irish bench.

“I’ve got to do better,” an emotional McGraw said. “I feel like I can fix it but I didn’t. I’m going to keep trying, I’m going to find an answer and I’m going to fix it.”

N.C. State coach Wes Moore felt for his colleague, who has won two national titles at Notre Dame. The Irish played in last year’s NCAA title game but lost on a last-second shot by Baylor.

“I’ve got great respect for Notre Dame,” Moore said. “I know right now they are short-handed. But they have some good young talent, a top recruiting class coming and you’ve got Muffet sitting on the bench.”

The Wolfpack took the lead for good at 11-9 on Crutchfield’s 3-pointer with 6:16 to play in the first quarter. They finished the quarter up 22-15 thanks to 57% shooting (8 of 14) as Cunane had six points and five rebounds. Gilbert had 10 points on 5-of-9 shooting while the rest of the Irish went 2 of 12.

Gilbert added five points in the second quarter, but her last basket at 4:30 was Notre Dame’s last of the half. N.C. State took a 39-25 lead to the locker room by hitting 8 of 12 shots with Cunane ending the half with 10 points and six rebounds.

The Wolfpack then had a 16-1 run to start the second half. Cunane hit a 3-pointer to put N.C. State up 44-25 when McGraw called a timeout just 1:09 into the third quarter. Crutchfield’s 3-pointer put the Wolfpack up 55-26 when McGraw called her second timeout with 5:21 to play.

“N.C. State is a great team,” McGraw said. “They have all the weapons you need. They can go inside, they shoot the ball well. That’s why they’re ranked in the top 10.”

BIG PICTURE

N.C. State: The Wolfpack overcame 13 first-half turnovers thanks to 62% shooting (16 of 26) and holding Notre Dame to 31% (3 of 11). NC State finished with 19 turnovers, five by Cunane and Aislinn Konig) thanks to shooting 63% in the third quarter while outscoring the Irish 30-11.

“It was important that we bounced back from the loss,” Moore said. “Elissa didn’t have her best game Thursday night (eight points, 13 rebounds). Today she played much better. She still has to cut down on the turnovers. Notre Dame did a great job when they doubled her, and she turned the ball over. We’ve got to get her to slow down a little bit.”

Notre Dame: The Irish went 3:20 without scoring in the first quarter and then ended the second quarter with no field goals in the final 4:30. Top reserve Anaya Peoples, wearing a brace on her right shoulder, left the game and was taken to the locker room 3:06 before halftime. Peoples, who was averaging 13.3 points coming into the game, finished with three points on 1-of-5 shooting from the floor and 1-of-4 from the line.

“She’s just relentless. … She never quits,” said McGraw, who didn’t know the extent of Peoples’ injury. “We need the body.”

UP NEXT

N.C. State: Hosts No. 11 Florida State on Thursday.

Notre Dame: Visits Duke on Thursday.