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The NC State Women's Basketball team celebrates a three pointer in the last quarter of the game versus the UNC Tar Heels on Thursday, Jan. 6, 2021 in Reynolds Coliseum. The Wolfpack beat the Tar Heels 72-45.

In 2019 and 2020, it was North Carolina that handed the NC State women’s basketball team its first loss of the season, and the Heels upset the Pack when the two teams met for the first time in 2021. But in 2022, those roles were flipped. NC State handed UNC its first loss of the season with a 72-45 blowout win on Thursday, Jan. 6 in Reynolds Coliseum.

The No. 5 Wolfpack (13-2, 4-0 ACC) dominated from start to finish, never trailing and holding a dominant advantage on the boards against the No. 19 Tar Heels (13-1, 3-1 ACC).

“I’m just so proud of the way they came out on defense,” said head coach Wes Moore. “The energy they had, the urgency they had, the toughness they had — that’s what we have to do. If we’re gonna be successful in this league, you’re gonna have nights you don’t shoot the ball well, and you’re gonna have to defend and rebound, and for the most part I thought we did that.”

From the jump, the Pack made it a point of emphasis to lock down on defense, holding the Heels without a bucket for the first five minutes while scoring the first 10 points. The Pack closed the quarter on a 14-5 run to take a 24-7 lead at the end of the first.

“Came out ready to play, especially defensively,” Moore said. “We were getting stops, we got the ball inside some, and transition was good.”

The two teams scored 16 points each in the second quarter as the Pack held a 40-23 lead at halftime, which was due in large part to a dominant 32-12 edge on the glass.

NC State came out strong in the third quarter, scoring the first seven points to go up 47-23, and the Pack also ended the quarter strong, going on a 7-0 run near the end of the quarter to take a 62-38 lead into the fourth.

The Pack was in cruise control in the fourth quarter, outscoring the Heels 10-7 to get the win 72-45. The win was the 400th ACC win in program history for NC State, the first program in ACC women’s basketball history to reach that mark. 

Senior center Elissa Cunane had a double-double with 19 points and 13 rebounds. Graduate forward Kayla Jones was the next highest scorer with nine points, and five other players had six or more.

As a team, NC State shot 41.8% from the field while holding UNC to just 23.8% and finished with a decisive 53-40 rebounding advantage.

According to Cunane, the win was the result of a series of good practices throughout the week in which the players were pushed by their coach to get after it defensively, which they did.

“I think we had some really good practices when we came back from break,” Cunane said. “We were just able to focus on ourselves and we really competed with each other, and I think that brought energy and a sense of refreshment. Mentally, we were in it. We were ready to play the game.”

North Carolina head coach Courtney Banghart drew attention earlier in the week when she said Reynolds Coliseum was sold out because it is a “small gym.” Whether those words were rightly or wrongly taken out of context, the sell-out crowd inside Reynolds played a significant role in the game.

“It was amazing,” Jones said. “During the game, I was thinking, ‘Can every game sell out?’ This atmosphere was crazy today. You just want to give them a show and play together.”

The win in a sense gets the monkey off the Pack’s back by beating the Heels in the first matchup between the two teams, but they will meet again on Sunday, Jan. 30 in Chapel Hill. In the meantime, NC State has another top-25 contest coming up as it travels to take on No. 20 Notre Dame on Sunday, Jan. 9. Tipoff is scheduled for 2 p.m. and will be broadcast on 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.