The hub of collegiate basketball will be Raleigh, NC when NC State’s women’s basketball team hosts the Louisville Cardinals in Reynolds Coliseum on Thursday, Jan. 20. Set to tip-off at 7:30 p.m., the upcoming game features two teams ranked among the 5 best in the nation, the only teams undefeated in ACC play.

The 4th ranked Wolfpack enter the upcoming game feeling good after winning 6 in a row including blowout victories over rivals Chapel Hill and Duke. A win over the Cardinals would not only make NC State the leaders of the ACC but would also extend the Pack’s nation’s best 24-week streak of being ranked in the top 5. 

This wouldn’t be the Wolfpack’s first big win of the year as they’ve already beaten four teams ranked in the top 25. A win on Thursday would give NC State their 2nd win over a top 5 team as they beat 2nd ranked Maryland earlier this season. Overall the Wolfpack have a record 16-2 with their 2 losses coming against the South Carolina Gamecocks and the Georgia Bulldogs.  

The leader of the veteran-filled Pack is Center Elissa Cunane who scores 16.3 points and gathers 8.3 rebounds per game. Alongside Cunane are Wing Jakia Brown-Tucker and Forward Kayla Jones who provide 13.5 & 11.9 points along with 5.0 and 7.1 rebounds, respectively. Guards Raina Perez and Kai Crutchfield finish up the starting lineup with Perez averaging 8.8 points and 3.2 assists while Crutchfield leads the team in steals. Diamond Johnson & Jada Boyd regularly come off the bench to provide key contributions.

After their previous win against Duke, some of the players were asked about how they handled having such a talented team. “Doing the little things, like taking care of the ball, and playing hard when your number is called and taking advantage of opportunities when they come,” said Jada Boyd. 

When asked about the team’s wealth of experience Cunane said “It’s (experience) very important, coach Moore can only tell us so much from the sideline… Learning to adjust in the middle of a game, learning how our offense works, and what options we’ll have… having that core group of veterans they really know what they’re doing which lets the younger people watch and follow us.” 

Coach Wes Moore was also asked about what it’s like to have such a veteran team. “On one hand it’s easier. It’s almost like having 5 assistant coaches out there on the court that kinda know what you want and how you wanna do it. The flip side of that is some of them have been there 5 years and they’re probably thinkin’… coach just let me play… so it’s a combination but it’s great to have all that experience out there.”


The Opponent

Louisville enters the game riding the longest winning streak in Division 1 basketball with 15 straight wins. The 3rd ranked Cardinals are coming off double-digit victories against Syracuse and Boston College in their last 2 games; however, they had to rally to win after Boston College was winning by 10 after the 1st quarter. Also undefeated in conference play, the Cardinals will no doubt be hungry to beat the Wolfpack and stand alone as the top team in the ACC. 

The Cardinals are led by their guards Kianna Smith and Hailey Van Lith who average 12.2 & 11.9 points respectively. Forward Olivia Cochran, another notable player, scores 10.5 points per game while leading the team with 8.3 rebounds per game.

NC State is led by its offense whereas Louisville is led by its defense 

NC State is the 2nd best 3-point shooting team in Women’s College Basketball, making 41% of their shots from beyond the arc. The Cardinals can shoot too, they are the 2nd best 3-point shooting team in the ACC, making 37% of their shots from deep. 

Louisville’s defense will be the best the Wolfpack have played all season. This season the Cardinals have allowed their opponents to score the 2nd least amount of points per game in the nation. 

The Wolfpack will look to counter Louisville’s defense with their stellar offense. The Wolfpack averaged 80 points and is the best scoring team in conference play.

Both teams also shoot well from the free-throw line and are among the top 3 in shooting percentage from the foul line in the ACC.


Destined To Meet

Entering the season, experts thought these two would be the best teams in the conference. National pre-season rankings had the Wolfpack and Cardinals ranked 5th and 6th respectively. When the ACC released their pre-season predictions both the panel of blue-ribbon experts and coaches predicted NC State to finish 1st and Louisville to finish 2nd in the conference.

If true, these predictions would be a repeat of the last season. In fact, the last meetup between these teams ended with NC State celebrating after Perez made a shot with 2.3 seconds left, solidifying the Pack as back-to-back ACC champions. Don’t think anybody forgot either, as 15 of 17 players from the game returned to University and will be playing in this showdown. The Cardinals will no doubt have revenge on their mind as they try to beat the Wolfpack and remain the only undefeated team in conference play.


Congratulations to Coach Wes Moore

Coach Wes Moore coached his 1000th game Sunday, Jan. 16, joining the legendary Kay Yow as the only coach in program history to reach that milestone. Moore’s resume includes 764 wins, 2x ACC Champion, 2x ACC Coach of the Year, 9x SoCon Tournament champion, and 12x SoCon regular-season champion. Moore is the only coach to reach the NCAA tournament in divisions 1, 2 and 3.

If NC State wins, the coast is far from clear. They’ll be tested by a tough schedule full of road games. When discussing the road ahead coach Moore said “It’s the ACC, our schedule, this next stretch, we have a whole lot of ranked teams… it’s just life in the ACC we got 6 teams in the top 25.” 

Cunane shared a similar remark in saying “Next time we’re gonna be playing them (Duke) at their spot so we have to come out and be even better… We have Louisville coming this Thursday.”

The Pack has a packed schedule ahead including road games against their Triangle rivals Duke and UNC-Chapel Hill.

How can students go to the game? The ticket student line opens an hour before tip-off so for this game tickets will roll out around 6:30 pm. Those interested should get there as early as possible – NC State is expecting a full house and had to turn away students earlier this season after full capacity was reached. Show up with a valid student ID and the game is free, students just need to show their ID card and present it in the Student ticket line for entry into the game. Masks are required for attendance.

Can’t make it to the game? No problem! For those who want to watch but can’t get there, the game will be nationally televised on ESPN.