CLEMSON, S.C. (AP)Aislinn Konig believes every shot she takes is going in. She sure made enough of them at Clemson for No. 7 North Carolina State to reach 20 victories for a fifth consecutive season.
Konig had 23 points on a career-high seven 3-pointers in the Wolfpack’s 79-60 victory Thursday night.
“I think the philosophy of the shooter is you believe in every shot you take,” Konig said. “When I do get in a rhythm, that belief is bolstered a little bit.”
Konig’s confidence spread throughout the Wolfpack (20-1, 9-1 Atlantic Coast Conference), who finished with a season-best 14 baskets from beyond the arc.
“You hit one or two (3-pointers) and you start thinking that (basket) is like a swimming pool,” North Carolina State coach Wes Moore said.
The Wolfpack reached 20 wins for a fifth straight season. The win helped them keep pace with league-leader No. 5 Louisville, which remained perfect in ACC play after an 86-54 win over Notre Dame.
North Carolina State won with outside shooting. The Wolfpack had averaged nine 3-pointers this season and promptly went 6-of-8 from behind the arc in the opening quarter.
Konig and Wolfpack quickly put things away at the start of the third quarter, making their first five shots. Konig made three 3-pointers during the stretch to help them go in front 51-31.
The Tigers (7-14, 3-7) could not respond and lost their 11th straight to North Carolina State.
Konig, a senior, broke her previous best of six 3-pointers with another smooth shot with 8:17 to go that gave North Carolina State a 66-47 lead.
The Wolfpack finished with a season-high 14 threes.
Kayla Jones had 15 points and Jakia Brown-Turner 12 for the Wolfpack.
The outside touch proved essential on a night when leading scorer Elissa Cunane was not as sharp as usual. The 6-foot-5 sophomore, who entered as the ACC’s fifth-leading scorer at 17 points a game, was just 2-of-7 shooting and finished with eight points.
Still, Cunane helped the Wolfpack move in front during the second quarter. She had six points in a 12-4 run after Clemson had tied the game at 22-all and tightened up its perimeter defense.
That opened things for Cunane. She made a pair of inside shots and two free throws in the Wolfpack’s 12-4 run that up them ahead 34-24 about 90 seconds before half time.
Shania Meertens led Clemson with 14 points.
“We did some good things tonight, just not enough,” Clemson coach Amanda Butler said.
THE BIG PICTURE
North Carolina State: The Wolfpack have just two more games until their showdown for ACC with No. 5 Louisville on Feb. 13 that should go a long way to determining the regular-season champion. North Carolina State must play at Duke on Sunday and Virginia Tech next Thursday before concentrating on the Cardinals.
Clemson: The Tigers were the surprise of the ACC a year ago in coach Amanda Butler’s first season as they won 20 games and reached the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 17 years. But this year’s group has six underclassmen who are still learning how to play against the ACC’s best teams.
Wolfpack coach Wes Moore said it’s a daily balancing act between letting his players enjoy this season’s success and pushing them to be even better.
“Right now, it’s easy to be lulled into thinking, ‘Oh, we’re great. We’re not going to lose,'” he said. “You hope that you can avoid losing a game to snap you out of that.”
FOUL LINE STRUGGLES
Clemson went to the foul line just six times, all coming in the fourth quarter with the game out of reach. It was the Tigers’ third fewest foul shots this season and they fell to 0-3 on the year when shooting single-digit free throws.
North Carolina State continues its road swing at Duke on Sunday.
Clemson goes to North Carolina on Sunday.