Cunane fights to put up the ball

Senior center Elissa Cunane fights to put up the ball against a Georgia defender at Reynolds Coliseum on Thursday, Dec. 16, 2021. Cunane was the highest NC State scorer of the game with 20 points but the Wolfpack lost to the Bulldogs 82-80 in overtime.

The No. 17 Georgia Bulldogs upset the No. 2 NC State women’s basketball team 82-80 in an overtime thriller on Thursday, Dec. 16 at Reynolds Coliseum for the team’s second loss.

The Wolfpack (10-2) came back from a 12-point halftime deficit and held a slim lead in the waning seconds of regulation, but the Bulldogs (9-1) hit a game-tying three to send the game into overtime and eventually eked it out to pull off the upset.

“Heartbreaking loss,” said head coach Wes Moore. “First half defensively we really struggled. … We’ve gotta figure out a way to guard better and defend better than what we’re doing and rebound better.”

The score was tied at 20 after the first quarter, but the Pack struggled in the second quarter, scoring just eight points and falling behind by 12 at halftime. The team’s struggles were due in large part to the absence of senior center Elissa Cunane, who picked up her second personal foul less than five minutes into the game and was forced to sit on the bench for the rest of the half.

“I was trying to get [Cunane] out when she picked up her first foul,” Moore said. “While our sub was at the table, she picked up another foul. … We can’t afford for her to pick up fouls 70 feet from their bucket. Gotta be smarter than that and make good decisions.”

Cunane returned to start the second half, and her presence was felt right away as she scored the first four points and the Pack quickly cut the deficit to six on a 6-0 run. The Bulldogs extended the lead back to 12 after Moore was called for a technical foul, but the Pack ended the quarter on an 18-5 run to take a one-point lead heading into the fourth.

“I was happy to be back in there,” Cunane said. “There’s not ever a doubt in my mind that we’re gonna win the game. I had confidence in my team and we were playing really well defensively, and I think we let that slide in the fourth quarter.”

The Pack held a slim lead for most of the fourth quarter, and after two free throws by graduate guard Kai Crutchfield, the team held a three-point lead with 4.2 seconds left. However, on the ensuing Georgia possession, the Bulldogs hit an off-balance 3 from several feet behind the arc to tie the game with 0.4 seconds left and send the game into overtime.

“I was thinking if they had to go full court, we could foul them,” Moore said. “With them being in the half court, I was concerned: ‘Could we possibly foul the shooter on the catch?’ We just tried to switch everything and tried to make them shoot inside the arc. Obviously, we didn’t get it done. Kid hit a big shot.”

In overtime, the Bulldogs scored the first bucket and held a one-point lead with less than a minute left. NC State had an opportunity to take the lead near the end, but Cunane came up short on a turnaround hook in the paint with six seconds to go. The Pack got the ball back with 0.3 seconds left, but that was not enough time to get off a quality shot as the team fell for the second time to a ranked SEC opponent.

Cunane finished with a team-high 20 points, 18 of which came in the second half. Sophomore guard Diamond Johnson finished with 17, graduate guard Raina Perez had 13, Crutchfield had 10 and graduate forward Kayla Jones grabbed a team-high 11 rebounds.

While there are many plays and moments the team could look back on as to what led to the loss, perhaps the biggest overall area that the team will try to address is defense as it gave up a season-high 82 points.

“I think we can score a lot of points, but we try to hold opponents under 70,” Johnson said. “We didn’t do a good job of it. It does us no good scoring 80 and giving up 80. We’ve just gotta improve defensively.”

The Pack has nothing but conference games the rest of the way, starting with a home matchup against Virginia on Sunday, Dec. 19. Tipoff is scheduled for 4 p.m. and will be broadcast on the ACC Network.

Senior Sports Writer

I'm Ben Ellis. I am in the NC State Class of 2023 majoring in history. I've been writing for Technician since November of 2019.