Bridgeport, CT – Wolfpack women’s basketball (32-3) is headed to the NCAA Tournament Eight Eight for the first time since 1998 after beating ACC foe Notre Dame 66-63 in a thriller of a regional semifinal on Saturday afternoon.
It marks just the second time that NC State has advanced to the Elite Eight, joining the 1997-98 squad that reached the NCAA Final Four that season.
NC State put together an incredible fourth-quarter comeback, scoring the last seven points of the game after trailing by as many as eight points at the 6:41 mark of the final period. With the Pack’s deficit at just one, graduate guard Raina Perez snagged a steal at halfcourt and laid in the go-ahead bucket with 14 seconds remaining to put NC State in front by one.
Notre Dame advanced the ball out of the timeout, but its three-point attempt was no good and Perez hauled in the defensive board. She went on to hit a pair of free throws on the other end to ice the game away.
Perez’s go-ahead bucket marked the Pack’s first lead since the 7:43 mark of the second quarter. Notre Dame was never able to open up a lead of any more than 10 points, and NC State kept the game within single digits in the fourth quarter after staring up at a seven-point deficit after the third quarter.
Elissa Cunane led the Pack in scoring, totaling 16 points in addition to 10 rebounds on her way to her ninth double-double of the year. Kai Crutchfield also reached double figures in scoring with 14 points, scoring 13 of those in the second half, seven of those in the fourth quarter and hitting two third-quarter threes.
NC State only finished +1 in the rebound margin (32-31) but the difference came in offensive boards where the Wolfpack finished with 13 as a team to Notre Dame’s five. The Wolfpack scored 13 second-chance points and also tallied 22 points off of 16 Fighting Irish turnovers.
The Wolfpack brought out the fullcourt press in the fourth quarter, forcing Notre Dame into seven mishandles in the fourth quarter alone.
The Wolfpack stays in Bridgeport, Conn., to take on the winner of today’s game between second-seeded Connecticut and third-seeded Indiana on Monday, March 28. The Elite Eight matchup will tip off at 7 p.m. on ESPN.