No. 5 Notre Dame women have too much firepower for No. 9 NC State

NC State’s Wes Moore talks about the Wolfpack’s loss to Notre Dame

NC State coach Wes Moore talks about the Wolfpack's loss to Notre Dame in the Play4Kay game at Reynolds Coliseum in Raleigh, N.C., Monday, Feb. 18, 2019.
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NC State coach Wes Moore talks about the Wolfpack's loss to Notre Dame in the Play4Kay game at Reynolds Coliseum in Raleigh, N.C., Monday, Feb. 18, 2019.

On one of the biggest women’s basketball nights in Reynolds Coliseum, No. 5 Notre Dame came into Raleigh and played spoiler on ‘Play 4 Kay’ night Monday, defeating No. 9 N.C. State, 95-72.

The Irish (24-3, 11-2) had too much firepower for the Wolfpack (22-3, 9-3), outscoring N.C. State 54-36 in the second half. A short-handed NC State team, battling injuries the last few months, tied the game three times, but Notre Dame had an answer each time.

After tying the game at 47 on a 3 from Aislinn Konig, Notre Dame went on a 12-0 run to go up 59-47 and rolled from that point.

Cancer survivors were honored at halftime during NC State's annual Play4Kay game at Reynolds Coliseum in Raleigh, N.C. Monday, Feb. 18, 2019. Play4Kay honors legendary Wolfpack coach Kay Yow, who died in 2009.

“I was more frustrated with the runs they made that helped them take over the game,” N.C. State head coach Wes Moore said. “Once they get going ... they are a great offensive team. Normally if we score 72 points we have a pretty good chance of winning, but we didn’t slow them down enough to make that stand.”

The Irish, the defending national champions, had all five starters in double-figures. Arike Ogunbowale led Notre Dame with 22 points. Marina Mabrey added 21, while Jessica Shepard (18), Jackie Young (16) and Brianna Turner (12), rounded out the double-digit scoring for the Irish, who improve to 7-1 in the series with the Wolfpack.

Notre Dame outscored N.C. State 20-13 in the final quarter and were in cruise control after taking a double-digit lead midway through the fourth.

Elissa Cunane led the Wolfpack with a career-high 28 points. Kiara Leslie chipped in with 17.

“I probably should have got her more touches than we did,” Moore said of freshman center Cunane.

An earlier version of this story misspelled the name of N.C. State's center.

A lot of weapons

Notre Dame led by six at the break, 41-36, after getting off to a hot start in the second quarter. The Irish outscored the Pack 11-4 to start the second. The Wolfpack tied the game at 23 after a layup from DD Rogers. N.C. State then missed six in a row from the field while Notre Dame scored three straight layups, followed by a 3 from Mabrey, capped off by another 3 from Young. A put back moments later by Turner gave the Irish their biggest lead of the half.

“They are big inside, they do a good job there,” Moore said.

Notre Dame scored 62 of their 95 points in the paint, outscoring N.C. State by 32 there. The 95 points by the Fighting Irish were the most points score on the Wolfpack this season.

“They have a lot of weapons, so you can’t focus or concentrate on one or two,” Moore said. “They are a tough team to defend. I may go to Notre Dame’s graduation. I think four of them are seniors or graduate students, so I may be there clapping on that day. That’s a great group they got.”

Ogunbowale and Mabrey combined for 21 of the 41 first half points for Notre Dame, which also out rebounded the Wolfpack 20-17 in the first half. The Irish got off running in the opening 20 minutes, scoring 14 fast-break points, compared to zero from N.C. State, which had it going in the half court, but were hurt by the four minute scoring drought and the six turnovers that led to 11 points from Notre Dame. The Irish finished the game with 37 fast-break points, compared to just two from N.C. State.

“That’s your ballgame right there,” Moore said.

Notre Dame head coach Muffett McGraw pointed out that scoring in transition is their strength.

“That’s our game,” McGraw said. “I was worried about the rebounds because they such a good rebounding team. So we thought if we could rebound we would be able to get out in transition.”

What a great team does

Cunane, the freshman center from Summerfield, getting her second start of the season, scored 16 first-half points, the first Wolfpack player to crack double-digits in the scoring column. Using a six-man rotation, all six N.C. State players scored in the first half, but the Irish never surrendered the lead.

Kayla Jones tied the game at 21 with a jumper and the Wolfpack were able to pull to within two twice, once after a 3 from Konig and again after a triple from Leslie. Each time Notre Dame answered with a bucket on the other end.

“That’s what a great team does,” Moore said. “You play even with them for a while and then all of a sudden they go on a run and then you play even for a while and they have another 14-2 run or whatever and now the ballgame is out of hand.”

After starting the season off 21-0, the Wolfpack have now dropped three of their last four. N.C State returns home on Thursday when they host Wake Forest at 7 pm.

“We have to take each game one at a time,” Leslie said. “We have to focus on what we can do better.”

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Sports reporter Jonas Pope IV covers college recruiting, high school sports, NC Central and the ACC for the Herald-Sun and The News & Observer.