ACC notebook: Elissa Cunane continues to impress for N.C. State

Cunane named Naismith POW

It’s unlikely that the N.C. State Wolfpack would be one of four undefeated teams in the country this season without the play of Elissa Cunane.

This week, the 6-foot-5 sophomore was named the Citizen Naismith Trophy Women’s Player of the Week after her performances in wins over Virginia Tech and Virginia, in which she tallied back-to-back games of at least 26 points. Cunane also totaled 19 rebounds across those two wins.

Against Virginia on Sunday, the Wolfpack never trailed and Cunane posted her eighth double-double of the season. The Summerfield, N.C. native leads the ACC in field goal percentage with a 65 percent mark, and leads the Wolfpack in scoring and rebounding with averages of 17.5 points and 10.4 boards per-game.

“I like our offensive balance. Elissa Cunane, she really helps us do what we like, which is to have that inside-outside balance. We try to make teams pick their poison,” Wolfpack head coach Wes Moore told High Post Hoops earlier this season. “If they guard Elissa one-on-one, we’re confident that she’s going to score most of the time. And if they do bring help, she’s got people around her who can knock down three’s. This ain’t rocket science.”

N.C. State has five players who have made at least 16 three’s this season and Cunane’s passing out of the post seems to be improving, as she’s notched seven assists over her past three games.

Virginia Tech bounces back with win over UNC

The Hokies nearly pulled off an upset in Raleigh last week, leading N.C. State at halftime in Reynolds Coliseum. The Wolfpack charged back and captured the win, but Virginia Tech showed that they’ll be a tough out for the rest of the season. And on Sunday, the Hokies got back in the win column, topping the North Carolina Tar Heels at home in Blacksburg. The Hokies got 31 combined points from Dara Mabrey and Aisha Sheppard, and then a performance from Taja Cole that featured nine points, nine assists, two blocks and two rebounds.

“Huge credit to Virginia Tech,” UNC coach Courtney Banghart said after the game. “They had a lot of fans that were excited about this team and they should be. We knew they were going to be good at every position, and they played with great urgency.”

Woes continue for Duke vs. Louisville

Duke nearly pulled off an upset at the KFC Yum! Center on Tuesday, but ultimately fell to the No. 7 Louisville Cardinals 60-55. It was the fourth straight loss for Duke, which is now 7-7 on the season and 1-2 in ACC play. Last Thursday, Duke lost to Wake Forest at home for the first time since 1992.

The Blue Devils did get a good showing from Haley Gorecki against Louisville, as the senior tallied 20 points, five rebounds, five assists, one block and one steal. Duke had a 13-point lead in the first quarter, but wound up losing their third straight game against a ranked opponent.

Syracuse might be on its way back to the Top 25

The Orange haven’t been ranked since Week 4 of this college basketball season, but might be working their way back into the good graces of AP voters with some impressive wins recently. After losing nail-biters to No. 22 West Virginia and No. 7 Louisville, Syracuse captured overtime wins at home against No. 8 Florida State and unranked Notre Dame. While the Irish aren’t at their best this season, they still have some talented players and the great Muffet McGraw on the sideline. Any win over Notre Dame is a good win.

Against FSU, Syracuse shared the ball as six players scored in double-digits. Against Notre Dame, Kiara Lewis scored 28 points, while Emily Engstler had 22 points and 15 rebounds. Syrcause had nine AP votes this past week and could certainly sneak in next week if they capture a road win at Miami on Sunday.

At Pitt, White using Harris off the bench

In Pitt’s first 11 games this season, freshman Dayshanette Harris was one of the starting guards in the Panthers’ backcourt. The results were mixed. In seven games, she scored nine points or less. But twice, she scored 22 points or more, against in-state rivals Duquesne and Penn State.

Since ACC play has started, second-year head coach Lance White made a switch with Harris, opting to bring the three-star prospect off the bench instead of starting her. So far, through Pitt’s three ACC losses, she’s averaged 8.3 points, 5.3 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 2.3 steals per-game. She has less responsibility and is playing more freely, and an off-the-bench sparkplug might be a role that’s suited best for the Youngstown, Ohio native.

“I think that allowed (Harris) to be freed up and not make as many decisions,” White told High Post Hoops. “I think we want to keep (Aysia) Bugg a little bit more at the point guard spot, just because of that experience. Day is still trying to make so many decisions that it limits her abilities to make plays. Today (against UNC), she really made more plays for us.”

Even if Pitt’s record doesn’t show it, they are improving in White’s second-year. For starters, they aren’t getting blown out anymore, as each of their ACC losses have been by single digits. They led during stretches against UNC and Boston College. The Panthers should be in a position to win a handful of conference games this season, and freshmen like Harris and Amber Brown might have a lot to do with that.

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