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NCAAW Preview: No. 4 NC State aims for perfect 8-0 mark as it faces Miami

Can Elissa Cunane and the No. 4 NC State Wolfpack extend their season-opening unbeaten streak to eight games? To do so, they will have to hold off the upstart Miami Hurricanes (4-1), who are coming off their best win of the season.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: MAR 08 ACC Women’s Tournament - Florida State v NC State
Elissa Cunane and NC State have their eyes on an 8-0 record.
Photo by William Howard/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Amidst a somewhat chaotic start to the 2020-21 women’s college basketball season, the NC State Wolfpack are cruising.

On Sunday at 12 p.m. ET in Raleigh, N.C., the No. 4 Wolfpack will seek to extend their record to a sparkling 8-0 against the Miami Hurricanes (4-1).

NC State originally was scheduled to face a nearby rival in the Duke Blue Devils, but the game was postponed due to positive COVID-19 tests within the Duke program. Miami was slated to meet the Louisville Cardinals, but that also was postponed due to COVID-19 protocols.

So an ACC scheduling audible has resulted in a meeting between the Wolfpack and Hurricanes. It will be the final contest for each team before their Christmas breaks.

After toppling the then-No. 1 South Carolina Gamecocks on Dec. 3, the Wolfpack have not suffered a letdown game, running off four-straight rather convincing victories. On Thursday, NC State escaped a frisky Wake Forest team, 79-65.

Sophomore Jakia Brown-Turner led NC State with a career-high 23 points, a total attained in part because of her 4-of-5 performance from 3-point range. Junior Elissa Cunane turned in another expectedly solid performance with a double-double of 17 points and 10 rebounds.

Senior Kayla Jones and graduate student Raina Perez also maintained their pleasantly surprising early-season play. Jones nearly notched a triple-double with 12 points, 11 rebounds and a career-high seven assists. With 10 points, three assists and no turnovers, Perez maintained her ACC-best 7.3 assist-to-turnover ratio.

In order to hold off the Hurricanes and advance to 8-0, Wolfpack head coach Wes Moore will once again need strong efforts from across his starting lineup.

That is especially true because Miami will arrive in Raleigh with positive momentum.

Last Sunday, the Canes triumphed 67-63 in a tough contest with the North Carolina Tar Heels. On her team, head coach Katie Meier said, “We’re not going to be pretty. We’re not going to be flashy. We’re going to be a gritty team and we’re okay with winning ugly; that’s just who we are.”

Redshirt junior Destiny Harden continued her strong early-season play with a career-best day, embodying the grittiness Meier described by fighting her way to 20 points and 12 rebounds.

The Miami program also received a boost from the NCAA’s decision to grant all transfers immediate eligibility. Junior guard transfer Karla Erjavec, who began her career at Wyoming, is now eligible to take the court for the Canes. With senior point guard Mykea Gray out for the season with an ACL injury, Erjavec will add depth to the Miami backcourt rotation.

Game Information

No. 4 NC State Wolfpack (7-0, 2-0 ACC) vs. Miami Hurricanes (4-1, 1-1 ACC)

When: Sunday, Dec. 20 at 12 p.m. ET

Where: Reynolds Coliseum in Raleigh, NC

How to watch/listen: ACCNX/GoPack All-Access

What to watch for: Against North Carolina, Miami aggressively attacked the offensive glass, using second chance points to gut out the victory. As they are shooting only 36.5 percent from the field for the season, the Canes again need to be ready to cash in on second-chance scoring opportunities. However, NC State is the second-best defensive rebounding team in the ACC, with Elissa Cunane and Kayla Jones leading the Wolfpack’s efforts to end opponents’ offensive possessions. For Miami to puncture NC State’s perfect record, it must find the will and way to own the offensive glass.

Highlights: Watch the Wolfpack go to work in their win over the Demon Deacons