In a game that looked all but over for NC State's women's basketball team, the No. 4 Wolfpack came up with a fourth quarter for the ages Thursday and a 68-59 victory over No. 3 Louisville that could have NCAA tournament seeding implications.
Down by 14 entering the final period after trailing throughout the game, the Wolfpack scored almost as many points in the last 10 minutes (31) as they did in the first 30 (37). The win put NC State in the driver's seat in the ACC standings race at 8-0, while Louisville is 5-1.
According to ESPN Stats & Information research, the Wolfpack's comeback was the fourth-largest fourth-quarter deficit made up this season in women's basketball. Teams trailing by at least 14 points going into the final period were 3-1,278 going into Thursday night's action.
And Louisville was 83-1 over the past five seasons when it had a halftime lead of double digits. The only loss in that stretch before Thursday was in last season's NCAA Elite Eight game against Stanford, which trailed Louisville 38-26 at halftime but won 78-63 on the way to the national championship.
Louisville, 15-2 overall, has one of the top-rated defenses in Division I and it flummoxed the Wolfpack for much of the game. NC State, 17-2, scored just six points in a particularly frustrating second quarter. But the Wolfpack didn't give up hope, and things finally turned around in a big way in the fourth quarter.
"We started hitting shots, we started getting some stops, got a couple of turnovers off the press that I really thought got the crowd into it," NC State coach Wes Moore said of the fans at Reynolds Coliseum in Raleigh, North Carolina. "It's a great, great win for our program. I just have so much respect for Louisville. They came in with that 1-3-1 zone and we had some trouble with it."
Guard Diamond Johnson led the Wolfpack with 16 points, 14 of them coming in the fourth quarter. The Wolfpack made five of their six 3-pointers in the final period. Center Elissa Cunane had 15 points and 12 rebounds.
"We never lost confidence," Johnson said. "We never stopped shooting."
NC State and Louisville don't meet again in the regular season. But they could face off in the ACC tournament as they did last year, when the Wolfpack won the conference championship game 58-56.