RALEIGH, N.C. – The N.C. State Wolfpack gave the second-ranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish what they deserved according to head coach Muffett McGraw when the two teams opened Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) play at Reynolds Coliseum on Thursday.
“They outhustled us, they outworked us,” McGraw said during a quick media availability following the Wolfpack’s domination of the Fighting Irish (12-2, 0-1) in a wire-to-wire 70-62 finish that handed the three-time defending ACC champions their second-ever loss since joining the league three years ago.
It was the type of season-defining win that the Wolfpack (11-3, 1-0) needed to begin an ACC slate that has them pitted against three straight top-25 teams.
“The conference office halfway apologized to me for our schedule,” N.C. State head coach Wes Moore said.
“We kind of drew the short end of the stick when you look that you open up against No. 2 Notre Dame, and you go to No. 5, 6, or whatever it is Florida State, and you come home to play Miami who’s ranked 11th in the country. So you’ve got three teams in the top 11 to start the (ACC) year. It’s pretty special to get a win in this situation and get off to a good start for that juggernaut of a schedule we’ve got ahead of us.
“We’ve had a couple of tough losses, not only this year, but last year. We needed this – real happy for ‘em. It just seemed like everybody we called on stepped up and did a good job. Great win. I thought the crowd played a big part as well. Not only numbers, but energy and enthusiasm, and I think our players fed off that.”
The loss snapped the Irish’s 35-game ACC consecutive win streak, and was the first since a Jan. 8, 2015 downfall to Miami.
The Wolfpack never trailed in the game, led by Dominique Wilson’s 18 points that was supported by 17 from Miah Spencer to go along with seven rebounds and six assists.
Jennifer Mathurin posted her ninth career double-double as her 11 points and 10 rebounds helped the Wolfpack keep up a consistent shooting pace, finishing 24-of-57 from the field, 8-of-19 beyond the arc, and 14-of-15 from the free throw line.
Highlights: N.C. State 70, Notre Dame 62 – ACC Digital Network (TheACC.com)
Leading 20-13 after the first period and carrying a six point advantage through halftime, N.C. State didn’t slow down, and opened the third quarter with a 13-0 run.
The Irish only converted on three shots in the period and made it harder on themselves to overpower a determined Wolfpack squad.
“They threw some punches early and we did not respond,” McGraw said.
“We were back on our heels the entire game. Just really disappointed in the way we played, in the effort that we gave.”
Led by Marina Mabrey’s 22 points and Lindsay Allen’s 12, Notre Dame eventually cut a 19-point deficit to just five points with 1:31 left to play in the game, but couldn’t overcome the consistent, defensive tenacity N.C. State played with throughout.
“We mainly focused on not turning the ball over because they have a good transition game,” Spencer said.
“That’s how they score the majority of their points. We did a couple of drills in practice where we couldn’t turn the ball over or it was the other team’s ball. We really focused on not turning the ball over and making the right decisions and boxing out.”
“They were doin’ everything right,” Moore added.
“We’ve got four seniors out there who provide a lot of leadership. They showed a lot of toughness tonight as well. They kept everybody’s feet on the ground. We knew they’d make a run or two – they’re too good a team not to. I thought we kept our composure.”