The NC State women’s basketball team dominated Clemson at the start of each half, outscoring the Tigers by a combined 51-19 in the first and third quarters for a 79-52 win on Dec. 30 at Littlejohn Coliseum in Clemson, South Carolina.
The Wolfpack (12-2, 3-0 ACC) got double-digit scoring performances from three players, with three others scoring eight points, in an all-around dominant win over the Tigers (6-7, 0-2 ACC).
Despite the dominance, head coach Wes Moore wasn’t impressed with his team’s performance.
“I was disappointed in the way we played,” Moore said. “Let's face it, Clemson was very short-handed, missing three of their top four guards. We got off to a little bit of a lead in the first quarter, played really well in the first quarter and then the second quarter; they actually outscored us and stole some of the momentum back.”
Both teams were down a few players for the matchup with freshman guard Aziaha James and sophomore guard Genesis Bryant unavailable for the Wolfpack and Delicia Washington, Daisha Bradford, Weronika Hipp and Kiara Lewis unavailable for the Tigers. NC State was also without assistant coaches Erin Batth and Nikki West.
“We've got to learn to put 40 minutes together,” Moore said. “We’ve got to learn to play each possession like the game’s on the line, and so I’m a little concerned about that, because we're fixing to now jump into a juggernaut. This conference is brutal, and like I said, we were fortunate in a way that Clemson wasn't full strength or we would have had our hands full today.”
Junior forward Jada Boyd led all players with 18 points, adding an additional eight rebounds. Sophomore guard Diamond Johnson trailed just behind Boyd with 15, while sophomore guard Madison Hayes scored 11.
“Jada Boyd is talented and has so much potential,” Moore said. “I hold her to a pretty high standard. I thought she did a great job of getting to the rim and knocked down some jumpers. I mean, hitting 2 for 2 from the three point line is awesome. Just gotta keep getting her in there and getting her back into shape after being out quite a bit first semester.”
Graduate guard Raina Perez finished the game two points and two assists shy of a double-double.
While the Pack committed less turnovers than the Tigers, 21 compared to 23, taking care of the ball was one area the Wolfpack could have improved on.
“A lot of things we need to clean up,” Moore said. “We are turning the ball over too much. We shoot the ball pretty well, so if we take care of it, offensively, we ought to be in pretty good shape. But you know, gotta take care of the ball better.”
The Pack pounded the ball inside and capitalized on eight Tiger turnovers, leading to 12 points, in the first quarter to take an early 25-11 lead. Senior center Elissa Cunane and Boyd led the charge for the Pack early, combining for 15 first-quarter points as the Pack outscored Clemson 16-2 in the paint.
With the bigs dominating inside, NC State’s sharpshooters were able to find some space late in the quarter and stretch the Pack’s lead.
Boyd tried to save the ball as it went out of bounds late in the quarter and appeared to turn her ankle in the process. The forward was taken out of the game right away, but did return in the second quarter.
Clemson narrowly outscored the Pack 16-15 in the second quarter, cutting the lead to single digits multiple times as the Pack shot just 26.7 from the field in the quarter. While it couldn’t get shots to fall consistently from the field, 5-for-6 shooting from the charity stripe helped the Pack maintain its double-digit lead heading into halftime.
The Wolfpack came out of the break hot, starting the third quarter on a 13-4 run to put the game out of reach. The Wolfpack outscored the Tigers 26-8 across the quarter, pushing its lead to 66-35.
The Pack spread the ball around incredibly well in the quarter with seven players recording a point and none scoring more than six.
Graduate forward Kayla Jones was in uniform and on the bench for the game, but did not feature. Moore said Jones tweaked her ongoing injury during one of the practices after Christmas but thinks she will be back soon.
The Pack will be back in action on Thursday, Jan. 6 as it hosts UNC-Chapel Hill for its first game of 2022. The opening tip is set for 8 p.m. in Reynolds Coliseum and will be broadcast on the ACC Network.
“Carolina is off to a great start,” Moore said. “We're 30 minutes apart, so every time we go against each other, you can throw everything else out the window. It's going to be a dogfight and a battle.”