College basketball: No. 5 Wolfpack women top Tar Heels as Cunane leads way

Published 10:42 pm Thursday, January 6, 2022

By Aaron Beard

AP Basketball Writer

RALEIGH — Elissa Cunane had 19 points and 13 rebounds to help fifth-ranked North Carolina State roll past 19th-ranked rival North Carolina 72-45 on Thursday night.

The Wolfpack dominated the first quarter to build a huge lead and never trailed. N.C. State quickly turned the game into a display of its depth, getting offensive production from throughout its lineup and easily turning away UNC’s attempts to shoot its way back into the game.

Cunane, the 6-foot-5 preseason ACC player of the year, found space to operate inside and had secured her double-double by early in the third quarter.

The Wolfpack (13-2, 4-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) shot 42%, hit 11 3-pointers and finished with a 53-40 rebounding advantage.

Deja Kelly scored 21 points for UNC (13-1, 3-1), but she was largely alone in carrying the scoring load. The rest of the Tar Heels shot a combined 7 for 41 for 23% shooting overall as a team.

The rivalry had some extra zip this year, thanks to UNC’s rise under third-year coach Courtney Banghart. While N.C. State is the two-time reigning ACC champion, the Tar Heels entered as one of the last three unbeaten Division I women’s teams and ranked seventh nationally by averaging 83.1 points per game.

But the Wolfpack drained all drama early in this one, rolling to a 17-2 lead and leading by 17 points after the opening quarter. The Tar Heels got no closer than a dozen again, then saw the Wolfpack come out of halftime with seven straight points to push the lead to 47-23 on Cunane’s 3-pointer — one of her three on the night — barely 90 seconds into the half.


UNC: The Tar Heels had reason for confidence. This is the first season they have been ranked in the AP Top 25 since the 2015-16 preseason poll. They also had won the first of the two annual rivalry meetings in each of the past three seasons, all against top-10 Wolfpack teams. But UNC struggled early in front of a hostile sellout crowd and did little to keep the Wolfpack off the glass until the game was long decided. That combination made it pretty clear that No. 4 Arizona and Colorado would be the nation’s only unbeatens by the final horn.

N.C. State: The preseason league favorite illustrated some of its upside, with the Wolfpack having a seemingly endless well of options for offense and the ability to offset any shaky shooting efforts by calling another player’s number. Beyond Cunane, six players scored at least six points in a balanced effort that allowed Wes Moore’s club to add UNC to its list of wins against ranked opponents (joining No. 6 Indiana and No. 10 Maryland). N.C. State’s only losses were against No. 1 South Carolina and No. 15 Georgia.


UNC: The Tar Heels return home to host Virginia Tech on Sunday.

N.C. State: Another ranked opponent awaits the Wolfpack in Sunday’s trip to No. 20 Notre Dame..

Huntley carries Appalachian State men past South Alabama

MOBILE, Ala. (AP) — CJ Huntley had a career-high 20 points as Appalachian State topped South Alabama 72-64 on Thursday night.

Adrian Delph had 16 points for Appalachian State (8-8, 2-1 Sun Belt Conference), which ended its four-game road losing streak. James Lewis Jr. added 15 points and seven rebounds. Michael Almonacy had 12 points and six assists.

Jay Jay Chandler had 19 points for the Jaguars (10-5, 0-2). Marshall Kearing added 13 points, seven rebounds and four blocks. Alex Anderson had 12 points.