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A closer look at No. 1-seeded N.C. State, USF’s next NCAA tourney foe

The Wolfpack defeated two then-No. 1-ranked teams during the regular season.
North Carolina State center Elissa Cunane (33), working in the post against Louisville's Olivia Cochran (44) during the March 7 ACC tournament final, averages 16.5 points and 8.0 rebounds.
North Carolina State center Elissa Cunane (33), working in the post against Louisville's Olivia Cochran (44) during the March 7 ACC tournament final, averages 16.5 points and 8.0 rebounds. [ BEN MCKEOWN ]
Published Mar. 22
Updated Mar. 22

A look at top-seeded North Carolina State (21-2), which faces No. 8-seeded USF (19-3) on Tuesday afternoon in the second round of the NCAA Tournament:

Nickname: Wolfpack

Coach: Wes Moore (eighth season at N.C. State, 183-64; 23rd season overall in Division I, 541-177)

Final NET ranking: 7

Biggest wins: def. No. 1 South Carolina, 54-46 (Dec. 3); def. No. 1 Louisville, 74-60 (Feb. 1); def. No. 5 Louisville, 58-56 in ACC tournament final (March 7)

How they advanced: def. North Carolina A&T, 79-58 in first round

Player(s) to watch: C Elissa Cunane, 6-5, Jr. (16.5 ppg, 8.0 rpg, 18 blocks); F Kayla Jones, 6-1, Sr. (11.9 ppg, 7.1 rpg, 2.8 assists); G Raina Perez, 5-4, Gr. (9.0 ppg, 4.9 assists); F Kayla Jones, 6-1, Sr. (11.9 ppg, 7.1 rpg); G Kai Crutchfield, 5-9, Sr. (7.8 ppg, 26 steals); F Jada Boyd, 6-2, So. (10.8 ppg, 5.8 rpg)

Related: USF women earn first NCAA Tournament win in five years

Need to know: The Wolfpack, who likely will start four upperclassmen against USF, became only the third Division I team in the last 20 years to defeat the nation’s then-No. 1 squad twice in the same season. More history could be lurking, thanks to this club’s size, balance and versatility. Nine players average at least 10 minutes, and four average at least 10.8 points. Cunane, the ACC Tournament MVP, leads an imposing frontcourt that ranked fifth nationally in defensive rebounds per game (31.3) in the regular season and ranked second in the ACC in field-goal percentage (46.6). “Cunane’s just so skilled because she’s got good hands, she’s got good feet,” Bulls coach Jose Fernandez said. “She can turn either shoulder, she’s got good touch around the rim, she’s a good free-throw shooter.” Congest the interior, and the Pack can scorch you from long range, averaging 36.1 percent (163-for-452) from 3-point land. Leading the backcourt is Perez, who finished the regular season eighth nationally in assist-turnover ratio (2.92); and Crutchfield, one of the ACC’s best perimeter defenders.

Audible: “We’re going to have to be solid on our coverages and how we’re going to defend their (forwards and centers). They’ve also got big guards. There’s nobody really in our league that you can compare them to, but we’re going to be tested like we were tested against Baylor and Mississippi State — those type of front-line guys.” — Fernandez