COLUMBIA, S.C. — North Carolina State coach Wes Moore channeled two-time Super Bowl-winning coach Bill Parcells after the Wolfpack’s landmark victory over No. 1 South Carolina.
Raina Perez hit a go-ahead 3-pointer with 3:07 left and Kayla Jones had 16 points and 12 rebounds and the eighth-ranked Wolfpack ended the Gamecocks’ 29-game winning streak with a 54-46 victory Thursday night.
Moore, like his players, was happy with the victory in the road opener. But it’s far too early for anyone to think the Wolfpack can now coast through the season.
“Parcells used to talk about, `Big game, next game,”‘ Moore said. “We’re going to have to make sure we’re ready to play on Sunday. But we’re going to enjoy this one for about 24 hours.”
There was plenty to enjoy.
Along with Jones, Jakia Brown-Turner had a double-double with 11 points and 12 boards. And during crunch time, the Wolfpack outscored South Carolina 11-2 over the final five minutes.
The Wolfpack (3-0) beat a top-ranked opponent for the first time since knocking off Duke in the 2007 Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament.
South Carolina (3-1) lost for the first time since falling to Indiana on Nov. 28, 2019, and the first time at home since a 68-64 loss to Mississippi State in the regular-season finale two seasons ago.
The Gamecocks were ice-cold throughout, shooting 28% from the field.
“In my 21 years (coaching), I’ve never felt like I did during the game,” South Carolina coach Dawn Staley said. “Uncoachable. Untameable. Selfish play.”
Elissa Cunane added 14 points, five rebounds and four blocks, and Perez finished with 11 points.
Cunane made two foul shots to put the Wolfpack ahead 48-44 with less than two minutes left. But Zia Cooke’s steal and layup drew South Carolina within a basket with 53.4 seconds to go. After a timeout, the Wolfpack worked the ball around to a wide-open Jones for a 3-pointer.
When LeLe Grissett was called for a charge on the next possession, the celebration was underway with 15 seconds left.
Cooke and Laeticia Amihere led the Gamecocks with 11 points apiece. Amihere also had 15 rebounds.
Jones believed North Carolina State’s victory showed it will be a team to be reckoned with this season. “I feel like it’s a huge win,” she said. “I thought we could compete with anyone.”
Both teams locked in on defense in the opening half, making it a defensive struggle to find points.
The Wolfpack shot 25%, but that was better than South Carolina, which was 8 of 37 and missed 14 consecutive shots.
Moore said there’s a lot to clean up, especially on offense. But he’s happy he gets to teach those lessons after a victory for the ages.
“It’s not March,” he said. “But it’s a game we can definitely build on.”
THE BIG PICTURE
North Carolina State: The Wolfpack packed the middle against the get-out-and-run Gamecocks and it worked as they held South Carolina to a season-low 28% shooting.
South Carolina: The Gamecocks have been tested deep into their past three ball games and have yet to establish themselves as the dominant, relentless team they were a year ago.
South Carolina had been on top of the past 12 AP polls dating back to last season. That run will end next week with this loss. Expect North Carolina State, as long as they slip up in its next game Sunday, to move up in the rankings.
As it did in its opener, 10 of 11 South Carolina players sat during the national anthem to support the fight against racial injustice. The Gamecocks were joined by 10 members of the Wolfpack, who knelt next to each other while the song was played.
At halftime when South Carolina had shot only 2 of 19 in the second quarter (10.5%), Gamecocks coach Dawn Staley, a former All-American and national player of the year at Virginia, told them that was unacceptable. “I told our team I could be blindfolded with defense and shoot better than 10 percent,” she said.
North Carolina State: Hosts Coastal Carolina on Sunday.
South Carolina: At No. 23 Iowa State on Sunday.