Toppling a pair of women’s basketball powerhouses within the span of five days usually gets the attention of other teams, fans and the media. Such is the case with NC State, which happened to knock off two teams that entered games against the Wolfpack ranked in the Top 10. By the time the final horn sounded, both of those squads found themselves on the short end of the final score.
The first of these stunners came on December 29th, when then second-ranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish came to Raleigh and lost, 70-62. The magnitude of the win was symbolized by the fact that Notre Dame came in having won their last 35 regular season ACC games. In addition, they had a 47-1 record since entering the conference three years ago. However, despite this huge victory and finishing out 2016 with an 11-3 record, the Wolfpack found themselves unranked in the last poll of 2016.
After closing out 2016 with a shocker, State began 2017 with another jolt as they traveled to Tallahassee and knocked off the sixth-ranked Florida State Seminoles, 70-61, on January 2. Like Notre Dame, Florida State’s only previous loss this season was to defending national champion Connecticut, with the Seminoles having run off 12 consecutive wins since that defeat.
The Wolfpack currently sit atop the ACC with those two wins, with three other teams right behind them with just a single victory. Their 12-3 overall record has primarily been bolstered by a strong attention to the defensive side of the ball, with all but one of their first ten victories highlighted by keeping their opponent under 60 points.
Yet, Wes Moore’s North Carolina State squad possesses a potent offense to go along with that defensive unit. In contrast to other squads having one or two central scoring outlets, the Wolfpack spread the points around, making them difficult to defend.
The trio of Dominique Wilson, Chelsea Nelson and Miah Spencer each enter Thursday night’s game against Miami averaging 10.5 points per game for lead North Carolina State. Nelson’s presence in the paint, along with that of Jennifer Mathurin, has given the Wolfpack an average of 12 rebounds per game to lead the team.
Mathurin is part of a quartet of long-range shooters for Moore that help stretch out defenses. Along with Wilson, fellow starter Ashley Williams and key reserve Aislinn Konig, Mathurin are responsible for 78 percent of the three-pointers this season.
In the Notre Dame shocker, Wilson and Spencer combined for 35 points to supply half of the offense needed. Against Florida State, that duo was joined by Nelson to score 48 of the team’s 70 points.
As big as those two wins, the Wolfpack face another stiff challenge at home on Thursday night against 14th-ranked Miami. The Hurricanes are 12-2 and come off a 82-50 rout on the road of Pittsburgh on Monday after having lost to Florida State last week.
Miami’s team has a strong international flavor, which usually means more fundamentally-sound players. The key to stopping the Hurricanes lies in neutralizing their backcourt, the backbone of their team.