The NC State Wolfpack women’s basketball team held No. 10 Florida State to almost 30 points fewer than its season average in a 65-56 win over the Seminoles Thursday night in Reynolds Coliseum.
The Seminoles (18-4, 6-3 ACC) came into the game ranked seventh nationally in points per game, putting up 85.7 per contest, but the Wolfpack (18-5, 7-3 ACC) defense shut them down.
In what was a dominant defensive showing from beginning to end, NC State’s defense held the Seminoles offense to just 33.3 percent shooting from the field and 23.1 percent from the 3-point line.
Florida State’s two leading scorers, guard Imani Wright, who averages 18.2 points per game, and forward Shakayla Thomas, with 18 points per game, were held to just 23 total points and were a combined 10 for 28 from the field.
Wolfpack head coach Wes Moore was extremely happy with everyone on his team’s rugged defensive performance against a lethal Florida State offense.
“You really could go on down the line, every one of them probably averaged more than they scored tonight,” Moore said. “This isn’t gymnastics; they don’t give us points for style.”
NC State redshirt junior guard Kiara Leslie cited the Wolfpack’s coaching staff as a big reason why the team has played excellent defense this season.
“[Coach Moore] stresses defense and that is important,” Leslie said. “[The coaches] do a great job of preparing us with scouting and they make it easy for us to pay attention to little things.”
The suffocating Wolfpack defense was able to force the Seminoles into 14 turnovers, one more than their season average. NC State converted those 14 turnovers into 18 points, an important part of the game for a Wolfpack team that was outplayed in some areas.
Florida State outrebounded the Wolfpack 39-35, and took 20 more shots than the Pack, but it was NC State’s free-throw shooting that made all the difference.
The Wolfpack went to the free-throw line 25 times, hitting 20 of them. The Pack was able to limit its shooting fouls on the defensive end, holding the Seminoles to only nine free-throw attempts.
A back-and-forth first half saw the Wolfpack take a 23-20 lead on the strength of an 8-0 run, but the Seminoles answered with a 6-0 run of their own to take a 26-25 lead into halftime thanks to a running floater at the buzzer by guard Nausia Woolfolk.
After stretching its lead to 41-31 midway through the third quarter, the Wolfpack defense briefly faltered. Florida State closed out the third frame on an 8-0 run to cut the lead to 41-39 heading into the final quarter.
After a Wright 3-pointer made the score 52-50 with 2:41 left in the game, the Wolfpack finished the game with a dominant display of defense and free-throw shooting.
The Wolfpack shot 13 of 14 from the free-throw line, including 6 of 6 from redshirt sophomore guard Kaila Ealey, in the final 2:22 of the fourth quarter and held the talented Seminoles offense to just six points while forcing three Florida State turnovers during the same time frame.
“We shoot free throws in practice everyday,” Ealey said. “We know it’s important and it’s paying off. We shoot them twice at practice. And I’ve been shooting on my own with free throws too.”
Senior center Akela Maize led the way for the Wolfpack with 18 points. Leslie sank 3 of 4 3-pointers for 16 points to go along with her five rebounds. Ealey hit 10 of 11 free throws on her way to 14 points. Senior forward Chelsea Nelson rounded out the double-digit scorers for NC State with 11 points and eight rebounds.
The Wolfpack shot 43.5 percent from the field to improve to 10-0 this season when shooting above 40 percent.
The Pack’s three-game losing streak in early January seems like a distant memory now. NC State has won six games in a row now and sits tied for fourth in the ACC.
“It’s so impressive what these young ladies have done but we still have work to do,” Moore said.
The Wolfpack returns to action Sunday at 2 p.m. in Reynolds Coliseum against Boston College.