No. 8 N.C. State avenges only loss, stays unbeaten at home
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Elissa Cunane took a beating. It was nothing compared with the one she handed out.
Cunane had 22 points and 17 rebounds to help No. 8 North Carolina State beat North Carolina 76-68 on Sunday night.
Aislinn Konig added 16 points and Kai Crutchfield had 13 for the Wolfpack (19-1, 8-1 Atlantic Coast Conference), who improved to 12-0 at home.
Cunane drew 11 fouls, including five from North Carolina’s Janelle Bailey, and made 14 of 16 free throws. She had seven offensive rebounds, the same as the Tar Heels, and outscored them 8-5 on second-chance points.
“To have 17 rebounds is pretty amazing,” N.C. State coach Wes Moore said. “She was a warrior out there getting that done.”
N.C. State avenged its only defeat of the season, a 66-60 loss at North Carolina on Jan. 9.
The Wolfpack squandered a 14-point lead in that matchup, but they held on in this one in front of a sellout crowd after opening the game with a 13-2 run.
“It was amazing,” Cunane said. “The environment tonight, as soon as we ran onto the court, everyone was just pumped up with adrenaline going.”
North Carolina cut N.C. State’s lead to 45-43 midway through the third quarter, but the Wolfpack answered with another 13-2 spurt to regain control.
Konig made four 3-pointers, including two after North Carolina made one final run to cut the Wolfpack’s lead to 62-58 in the fourth quarter.
Kayla Jones had 10 points, all in the first half, for N.C. State. The Wolfpack made 10 of 21 3-point attempts.
Shayla Bennett scored 19 of her 24 points in the second half to lead North Carolina (14-6, 5-4). Taylor Koenen added 21 points for the Tar Heels, who trailed 37-30 at halftime.
North Carolina: The Tar Heels have alternated wins and losses in their last eight games, but four of those matchups came against teams ranked in the Top 15. North Carolina’s final nine games are against unranked opponents, and the team will need to post a strong record down the stretch in pursuit of a second consecutive NCAA Tournament berth.
N.C. State: The Wolfpack won their fifth game in a row, giving them a two-game lead on No. 14 Florida State for second place in the ACC. N.C. State has been dominant since its lone loss, winning by an average margin of 23.4 points per game. A showdown with No. 5 Louisville (20-1, 9-0) looms on Feb. 13.
Bailey was instrumental in holding Cunane to a season-low eight points on 3-of-11 shooting in the first meeting. Bailey stayed physical in the rematch and fouled out in 26 minutes after picking up three fouls in the first half. Malu Tshitenge, North Carolina’s other starting post player, also fouled out and had three fouls in the first half.
North Carolina’s bench received a technical foul late in the first half, and coach Courtney Banghart alluded to displeasure with the officiating.
“I thought Janelle played through adversity like a grown woman,” she said. “I thought Malu played through adversity like a grown woman. And it was hard because you can’t really tell them what they’re doing wrong, because I don’t know.”
KOENEN’S FIRST HALF
Koenen kept the Tar Heels in the game in the first half, scoring 16 of her team’s 30 points. While Koenen shot 6 of 9 from the field before halftime, her teammates shot 6 of 21.
SHE SAID IT
“He’s always been a huge supporter of women’s basketball and women’s sports in general, and I think that stems from the wonderful relationship he has with his daughters. To lose somebody who is such an inspiration on the basketball floor but also so supportive to what we’re doing is a big blow to women’s basketball and to the basketball community as a whole.” — Konig on Kobe Bryant, who died in a helicopter crash earlier Sunday.
North Carolina: The Tar Heels host Virginia on Thursday night, tipping off a stretch in which they play four of their next five games at home.
N.C. State: The Wolfpack play at Clemson, whom they have beaten 10 consecutive times, on Thursday night.