NC State takes down #1, the sequel
What is the best way to cope with your first loss of the season to an unranked conference opponent? Easy answer: knock of the number one team in the country on the road.
NC State had looked flat out bad in last week’s matchup against Virginia Tech. Maybe they were starting to feel the absence of Elissa Cunane or were just suffering from the pressure that being undefeated comes with. Whatever the reason, the Wolfpack brought the intensity for their top-5 contest versus Louisville.
While it won’t show up on the stat sheet, NC State’s shot contesting was the key to victory. For most of the game, the Cardinal guards could not get the clean looks they are used to. Head coach Wes Moore praised his team’s effort on defense and on the boards, where the Wolfpack dominated 44-29, including 13 on the offensive end.
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He also mentioned the supreme ability of Dana Evans to take over games when needed. The Louisville guard had 29 points and nine in a row to try and mount a comeback in the fourth, but it was already too late.
Four players for NC State had 15 or more, including 16 from Cunane in her first game back from the Covid protocol. This was the second time this season the Wolfpack have beaten the country’s number one team, becoming just the third squad to ever accomplish the feat.
Louisville falls to 16-1, but I believe this was a good loss for the future of the team. The pressure of staying undefeated is now lifted off their shoulders, especially since they start two freshmen in Van Lith and Cochran that now get to go through the process of mild adversity. And of all games to lose, dropping a game to a very good NC State team is hardly a resume killer. The Cardinal should still be in line for a number one seed, barring any late season disasters.
WNBA signing updates
On the first official day of free agency, two of the WNBA’s greatest confirmed they were not going anywhere.
Diana Taurasi signed a two-year super-max deal to stay in Phoenix. While it may seem irrational to spend the max on a 16-year veteran, Taurasi showed in the wubble that she has plenty left in the tank. Not only did she lead the Mercury with 18.7 points per game, but her efficient numbers have stayed staggeringly consistent relative to the drop-off one would expect with age. Even her volume of shots and minutes has only slightly decreased. As the face of the franchise and maybe even the WNBA as a whole, seeing Diana finish her career with Phoenix is the happy ending everyone wanted. (Except for Connecticut fans who bought into the tiny bit of hype that she might want to relive her college glory days in the state, but I digress).
As for the defending champs, it appears as though Sue Bird will be staying put as well. While no deal is in place yet as Bird awaits her teammate’s decisions and the subsequent salary cap implications, Bird confirmed she will return to the Seattle Storm.
With Breanna Stewart on the court, Bird is able to take a back seat when it comes to scoring and can focus on her exceptional playmaking abilities. She even shot a career high 47% from three-point range last season at the age of 39, so there are high hopes for the 2021 season.
One of the most underrated players in the WNBA, Brionna Jones and the Connecticut Sun agreed on a multi-year deal. Jones broke out last year with the absence of Jonquel Jones, and it will be fascinating to see how Curt Miller with use them together in addition to DeWanna Bonner in the frontcourt. If all goes well, the trio’s size and athleticism will be tough to overcome on both offense and defense.