NC State entered the contest having lost its last four Hoops-4-Hope games in Reynolds. The Wolfpack also had not won a regular season game against Duke since February 18, 2001—when Yow was still coaching.
State ended those streaks with authority on Sunday. After the win, fans stormed Kay Yow Court in what will be the second-to-last game played at home before renovations begin at Reynolds Coliseum in the spring.
Four players finished in double-figures scoring for NC State, led by sophomore guard Miah Spencer with 23 points. Redshirt-sophomore guard Dominique Wilson added 18 points, four assists and three steals. Sophomore forward Jennifer Mathurin posted a double-double with 13 points and 12 rebounds and redshirt-senior Len’Nique Brown-Hoskin scored 12 points and dished out six assists.
The Pack used terrific shooting from three-point range and the free throw line to fend Duke off in the second half. NC State shot 48 percent (12-of-25) from behind the arc and converted 22 of its 26 free throws (84.6 percent) while committing only seven turnovers. The Blue Devils turned the ball over 18 times.
“I couldn’t be prouder of our kids,” NC State head coach Wes Moore said. “They have faced a lot of adversity this year. I know Coach Yow would be proud of these kids because they’ve fought, they’ve battled and they’ve did whatever they could to make good things happen.”
“We had the perfect storm. We knew we needed to shoot the ball well today and do a good job of contesting on defense. We had several people hitting threes. Defensively we had to mix it up a little bit. I thought they did a good job.”
The two teams battled back-and-forth during the opening half before NC State took the lead with 6:27 to go before intermission when Mathurin stole the ball from Duke redshirt-freshman guard Rebecca Greenwell and then hit a three-pointer on the ensuing possession. After senior center Elizabeth Williams hit a layup to give the Blue Devils a one-point lead with 16:27 remaining, the Wolfpack went on a 12-0 run to seize control and never looked back.
“I wouldn’t say we played perfect… but I feel like stuck in together and executed the things that we needed to execute to get the win,” Spencer said. “I was guarding a 6’5” girl tonight …but coach said they don’t have that many perimeter shooters except [Greenwell] so just clog the paint and help down in because they knew it was going to be a mismatch every time.”
With the win in front of 4,896 boisterous fans, NC State ensures that it will have a winning record after the ACC tournament and likely will reach some form of postseason play for the fourth straight season. After the game, Duke head coach Joanne P. McCallie was effusive in her praise of the Wolfpack and the atmosphere inside Reynolds Coliseum.
“I thought it was a great basketball game,” McCallie said. “I thought the environment was absolutely incredible and I wish it could be that way every game, in every place we play. It is not always. I think Kay Yow would have been so proud today for what she would have saw in terms of the support and a great basketball team playing well together, finding each other and playing with a great sense of urgency.”
“In that regard, I think it was a very special day—not for Duke, of course—but for the other side and I think [Hoops-4-Hope] is such a special event. This breast cancer-thing is overwhelming…at some point, this has got to stop. It really does hit close to home. Just the way [the game] was done was excellent.”
The schedule does not get any easier for the Wolfpack. NC State returns to action on Thursday at No. 9 Florida State before closing out the regular season at home against No. 4 Notre Dame on Sunday.
“I think it was a team win,” Moore said. “I think we had a lot of people make plays. If we can keep everybody hitting on all cylinders like that, who knows? We will take our chances…Let’s see how good we can be.”