I don’t know what it is about the third quarter—or maybe what Wes Moore says at halftime—but NC State is excelling in that part of the game. The Wolfpack outscored NC A&T 20-7 in the third quarter of their first round matchup, and this afternoon outscored USF 24-11 in the third.
The third-quarter boost was a bit more important this time around, since NC State trailed at halftime. State opened the second half on a 12-4 run to build a seven-point lead on the Bulls, and the lead grew to as many as 14 on a pair of Elissa Cunane free throws late in the period.
Cunane managed a double-double on the day, but she was badly off her game—it seems like sometimes she really starts to press after a slow start and rushes bad shots, which just compounds matters. She shot just 3-15 from the field, which is never ideal but especially so with Kayla Jones sidelined by injury.
Fortunately, Jada Boyd and Jakia Brown-Turner were outstanding, combining for 37 points on 13-23 shooting. Kai Crutchfield knocked down all three of her three-point attempts, and Raina Perez was 3-5 from the field and 5-6 at the free throw line.
Free throws were a substantial advantage for State, which earned 29 trips to the line and canned 23.
Defensively, State limited USF to just 28% of its missed shots, which is well below the Bulls’ season average of 40%. The Bulls generally need those extra chances to be successful because they don’t tend to shoot the ball well—and today they were limited to 38.9% shooting inside the arc. Pretty darn good job by State’s interior defense all around.
NC State is on to the Sweet Sixteen for the third straight time.