The No. 13 NC State women’s basketball team is now 8-0 after winning the Claim Rainbow Wahine Showdown in Honolulu, Hawaii over Thanksgiving weekend. The Wolfpack is starting to put the pieces together with its returning players and young talent as it enters the last few games of the nonconference season.
Elissa Cunane paves the way
Sophomore center Elissa Cunane is proving so far this season that her freshman campaign was no fluke. Cunane is dominating inside, nearly averaging a double-double, with 14.9 points and 9.9 rebounds per game to lead the team in both categories.
Cunane, who was named MVP of the Claim Rainbow Wahine Showdown, impressed in Hawaii, especially in the last two games. Against Hawaii, she had 22 points and 11 rebounds, and the very next day she scored a season-high 24 points and brought down a career-high 19 rebounds against North Texas.
With Cunane’s ultra-rare 6-foot-5 frame and her offensive ability, it will be imperative for the Wolfpack to continue to utilize her as much as possible once conference play starts. If the Wolfpack continues to do so, NC State will likely be in the chase for an ACC title, and Cunane will likely be in the chase to be named an All-American at the end of the season.
Aislinn Konig getting hot at the right time
Many people coming into the season expected senior guard Aislinn Konig to be the go-to scorer for the Wolfpack. In the first three games, the guard, who is known for her ability to shoot 3-pointers, did not come out of the gate firing. Konig made only two of her first 20 3-point attempts of the season.
Thanks to some Hawaiian sun, the British Columbia native started to get hot and find her shot on the island. In what was her breakout game of this season, Konig silenced any critics with a season-high 25 points, including four 3-pointers and five assists, against Texas. Her hot shooting continued the next day against Hawaii, scoring 22 points, again making four 3-pointers, and dishing out six assists.
Being the only senior in NC State head coach Wes Moore’s starting lineup, it will be important for Konig to continue to find her shot and be the vocal leader on the court that Moore expects Konig to be in her final season at NC State.
Freshman duo making an immediate impact
Five-star freshmen guard Jakia Brown-Turner and forward Jada Boyd have settled into their roles well in their first season as members of the Wolfpack. Brown-Turner is a McDonald’s All-American who has started all eight games at the wing for NC State, and Boyd has been a spark off the bench for NC State through scoring and on the boards.
Brown-Turner is averaging nine points per game, and the left-handed shooter has a silky jump shot that is 30% from behind the arc. In the Wolfpack’s game on the road against Saint Mary’s, Brown-Turner had her best game, scoring 16 points on 6-for-10 shooting and grabbing four rebounds.
“Jakia Brown-Turner is a special player, the first McDonald’s American player we’ve had here I think in 15 years,” Moore said after the North Carolina A&T game.
Boyd showcased her ability in the first game of her collegiate career against North Carolina A&T, scoring 18 points and bringing down 11 rebounds. One of the reasons the 6-foot-2 native of Petersburg, Virginia was brought to NC State was for her rebounding ability, and Boyd has had double-digit rebounding totals in three of eight games in her freshman season.
This duo will have its chance to mark its name down in history for NC State women’s basketball; it just might be sooner than some thought with their production on this year's team.
Kayla Jones embracing her new role
In what might be the biggest surprise of the first eight games, junior forward Kayla Jones is becoming one of the go-to scorers for NC State. Jones averaged 4.7 points per game last season, but has jumped that average up to 10.1, good for third on the team.
“I just stayed in the gym a lot. The biggest thing was working on my shot, and then I just became more confident,” Jones said after the North Carolina A&T game.
Jones has scored in the double digits five times this season and tied a career high with 15 points in the win over Lamar. In her third season with the Pack, Jones has showcased an improved 3-point shot, making 12 of her 23 attempts, which comes out to a 52.7 shooting percentage.
Inside, Jones has been a help to Cunane and Boyd reboundwise, as she is averaging 6.4 rebounds a game. It remains to be seen if Jones can continue to keep her production going once conference play comes around, but with the attention Cunane and Konig get from other teams, don’t be surprised if Jones keeps getting opportunities to showcase her shooting talent.