What looked like a comfortable victory for the Lousiville Cardinals on Saturday in Raleigh, N.C. quickly became a classic fourth-quarter NC State Wolfpack rally led by Diamond Johnson's incredible 14 points in the frame. The No. 4 Wolfpack outscored the No. 3 Cardinals 31-8 in the final period to win 68-59 and improve to 17-2 on the season (8-0 ACC).
This game was a tale of two halves. In the first half, Louisville was in control. They dominated the offensive glass, got great offensive games from Olivia Cochran and Emily Engstler, and held NC State to a mere six points in the second quarter. Up 34-21 at the break and 51-37 entering the fourth quarter, it seemed Louisville was heading towards a conference win.
Then the fourth came. At the 8:02 mark, the run began. It was like a switch was turned on for the Wolfpack. Suddenly, they were winning every 50/50 ball, Johnson got hot from three and before you knew it, the Wolfpack were on a 17-0 run and had taken the lead 58-43.
Louisville's head coach Jeff Walz tried to stop the bleeding with timeouts, but nothing could stop NC State's momentum and energy. The players were inspired, while the crowd was at max capacity and lively. A comfortable win became an impossible challenge; the Cardinals didn’t even win and are likely still wondering where it all went wrong.
Tough finish to say the least. Lots of season in front of us; we’ll keep working, learn, and get better. https://t.co/1tt9X5wr0W— Jeff Walz (@CoachJeffWalz) January 21, 2022
This game perfectly demonstrated the joys of victory and the agony of defeat. For the Cardinals (15-2, 5-1 ACC), it's a heartbreaker. To be so close to victory and be unable to score more than eight points in the fourth is disappointing. Meanwhile, the Wolfpack can be thrilled with another conference win and another victory against a Top 25 opponent. They will assuredly rise in the rankings.
Despite the disappointing loss for Louisville, this is not a disaster. After three quarters, they were entirely in control, and it took an epic comeback for NC State to pull off the win. Losses like this can be a positive turning point for a team. We'll have to wait and see if this is something that will make or break the Cards. They'll have a chance to show this was a fluke game on Sunday when they face Wake Forest. NC State will also play on Sunday and will be looking to build off this momentum when they square off with Virginia Tech.