BLACKSBURG, Va. (AP)The seventh-ranked North Carolina State women’s basketball team was forced to take a bus back to Raleigh on Thursday night following its game against Virginia Tech after poor weather prevented the Wolfpack from flying.
At least the ride was a joyous one.
Elissa Cunane scored 17 points and grabbed 16 rebounds to lead the Wolfpack to a 71-59 victory, ending the Hokies’ 16-game home winning streak.
Cunane, who registered her Atlantic Coast Conference-leading 12th double-double, made just 4 of 15 from the floor, but connected on 8 of 10 from the free-throw line to lift the Wolfpack (22-1, 11-1 ACC) to their eighth consecutive win and sixth in a row against the Hokies. Aislinn Konig and Jakia Brown-Turner added 11 points each for NC State.
“I’m just proud of our kids,” NC State head coach Wes Moore said. “We knew this was going to be a tough, tough game … It wasn’t pretty. They did a great job of defending us, and we didn’t shoot the ball well. You look at the numbers – assists and turnovers and things like that. It wasn’t great, but proud of the way we grinded.”
Taja Cole paced the Hokies (16-6, 6-5) with 19 points and Dara Mabrey had 15.
Virginia Tech trailed by as many as 14 in the second half, but cut the lead to 40-39 on two free throws by Aisha Sheppard with 54.5 seconds remaining in the third period. NC State answered with an 8-0 run capped by three-point plays from Kai Crutchfield and Jada Boyd that pushed the Wolfpack lead to 48-39 with 9:44 left. Virginia Tech got no closer than six the rest of the game.
“There’s no secret,” Moore said. “We’ve played them once already, and you know who does what really well … A lot of weapons. You just try to take away what they do well.”
NC State, which leads the ACC in field-goal percentage defense, held the Hokies to a season-low 30.3% (20 of 66). The Wolfpack also finished 23 for 28 from the free throw line, including 17 for 22 in the final period.
“We give credit where credit is due,” Virginia Tech coach Kenny Brooks said. “I thought they outplayed us. They were the better basketball team tonight. They did a good job of taking us out of some of the things we’re accustomed to doing, and we didn’t answer the bell. We allowed ourselves to be played a certain way, and we’ve got to learn to play through it and be more of the aggressor.”
NC State: With a free weekend coming up, the Wolfpack are in perfect position to prepare for what could be the game of the year in the ACC next Thursday when they take on No. 5 Louisville, which was in first place entering Thursday’s action. Regardless of that outcome, the Wolfpack, with a deep roster and with their tenacious defense, will be a tough out in NCAA Tournament play in March.
Virginia Tech: The Hokies could have used a huge win for their NCAA Tournament resume, but no harm was done. They play a solid North Carolina team Sunday and then face three teams – Georgia Tech, Wake Forest and Notre Dame – already behind them in the ACC standings. They remain in good position to end their 13-year NCAA Tournament drought.
NC State: The Wolfpack play Louisville at home on Thursday.
Virginia Tech: The Hokies play at North Carolina on Sunday.