Wolfpack women win its first ACC Tournament championship since 1991
GREENSBORO, N.C. — The NC State women's basketball team defeated Florida State 71-66 Sunday afternoon in Greensboro Coliseum to win its first ACC tournament championship since 1991.
In a game with 12 lead changes and nine ties, the Wolfpack (28-4) outscored the Seminoles 13-3 in the final three-and-a-half minutes to pull away for the victory.
The Pack won the final minutes of each half. Florida State was shut out in the final four minutes before halftime and scored its last field goal of the game with 3:45 remaining in the fourth quarter.
“I couldn't be prouder of this group,” NC State head coach Wes Moore said. “We have come a long way in the last couple of years.”
Moore, in his seventh year in Raleigh, now becomes the second coach in program history to win the ACC Tournament championship.
The win represents the fifth conference tourney title in program history. Legendary Hall of Fame head coach Kay Yow won all four of the previous ACC titles during her 34-year career at NC State.
“Having worked for her a couple of years, walking out on her court in Reynolds Coliseum, seeing the banner up top that she put up there, it's been a long time,” Moore said. “So for Coach Yow's legacy and the NC State tradition she built, this is pretty awesome.”
Konig Names Tournament MVP, Cunane First-Team All-Tournament
Senior guard Aislinn “Ace” Konig was named the Most Valuable Player of the tournament and sophomore center Elissa Cunane earned first-team All-Tournament honors.
In Sunday’s championship game, Konig scored 18 points, going 6 of 13 from the field. The senior from Canada had several good looks from the perimeter early on, but she was only able to convert one of her six three-point attempts in the first half. In the final two quarters, she was a perfect 3 of 3 from behind the three-point line.
“I'm surrounded by a coaching staff who has ultimate confidence in my shooting ability,” Konig said. “I knew I was going to get other looks, and I have teammates who aren't afraid to give me the ball. I was able to hit those shots, but their confidence in me and willingness to trust me is a big part of that success.”
Her most important triple came with 2:26 remaining in the fourth quarter following a 10-0 Florida State run that gave the Seminoles a five-point lead. After Cunane halted the run with a deuce, Konig’s three a couple of possessions later tied the game at 63 and allowed the Wolfpack to never relinquish the lead.
Konig tied for the team high in scoring in each of the Wolfpack’s three games in Greensboro. In Saturday’s semifinal versus Boston College, she had 16 points and two assists. She also scored 16 points in the quarterfinal against Georgia Tech.
Konig went 10 of 25 on threes in the Wolfpack’s three-game tournament run.
“This was a family that came together and really bought in and played together throughout this whole tournament and through the ups and downs through the season,” Konig said. “Being able to celebrate that with them and the coaching staff and the amazing fans who filled up this arena for us is super special.
“To be part of this legacy of NC State that has had so many contributors from before us and will guarantee to have after us, it's amazing to be part of that.”
Cunane tied Konig for a team high in points in the quarterfinal versus Georgia Tech and Sunday’s championship game against Florida State. The first-team All-ACC sophomore was able to rest for a majority of the second half in NC State’s semifinal victory over Boston College.
“It feels unreal right now,” Cunane said. “I remember as a kid when the champions would be crowned I would see the balloons and the confetti growing up, and I said, 'Mom, I want a balloon.' She said, 'No, you can't get one.'
"So I went down today and grabbed as many as I could.”
Cunane, nicknamed “Big Smile,” appeared to flip a switch in the final moments of the first half. She was called for traveling on a late second-quarter play when she appeared to want a foul called on Florida State’s River Baldwin, who smothered Cunane throughout the half with physical play in the post.
On the following defensive possession, Cunane swatted Baldwin’s shot attempt, sending the ball into the first row that fired up the majority NC State crowd. She followed up the rejection by sinking one of her two three-pointers of the game, pulling the Pack within one before halftime.
“I think I got my momentum going, and I was trying to focus on the next play,” Cunane said. “They're going to be a very physical team. Division I is a physical league. So I had to keep playing through it.”
NC State Freshmen Shine In Greensboro
Freshmen Jakia Brown-Turner and Jada Boyd both scored in double figures in the championship game and stepped up in big moments throughout the Wolfpack’s tournament run.
Brown-Turner had a double-double in the victory over Florida State, scoring 14 points and grabbing 10 rebounds. She provided an early offensive boost as the only Wolfpack player in double figures at halftime.
Boyd added another 10 points off of the bench on 4-of-6 shooting in her efficient 13 minutes on the court. The reserve forward entered Sunday with confidence after a 16-point performance on Saturday in the semifinal versus Boston College.
“It's real exciting,” Moore said. “Jada Boyd brings so much energy when she comes out there, so athletic, makes plays for us.
"Jakia, what a day she had today. Definitely didn't play like a freshman. She didn't play like a freshman this whole tournament. It's awesome to see somebody step up like that in this environment their first year.”
Brown-Turner and Boyd were both selected for the ACC All-Freshman Team this season.
“It's exciting to think you have those two freshmen and Elissa sitting over here who is a sophomore,” Moore said. “That's a good nucleus.”
The Wolfpack will receive an automatic bid for the NCAA Tournament as the conference champions and will learn of its next opponent a week from Monday during the NCAA women’s basketball tournament selection show.
That will air on ESPN on Monday, March 16 at 7 p.m.
NC State is essentially assured of hosting the first two rounds at Reynolds Coliseum after taking the ACC title.
“A few weeks ago they thought we had peaked in January or something,” Moore said of the national media.
As of Sunday morning, ESPN’s women’s basketball bracketologist Charlie Creme had the Wolfpack as a No. 3 seed. With the conference championship, NC State now makes a strong case to earn a No. 2 seed entering the big dance.
“I feel like right now we got a good mojo about the team,” Moore said. “We've got a lot of people that are playing and contributing, and I think that helps to keep everybody engaged.
"And, heck, winning doesn't hurt."