NASSAU, Bahamas — A dominant first half and another strong game from Elissa Cunane helped No. 5 N.C. State run past second-ranked Maryland.
Cunane scored 20 points, making eight of her nine shots from the field, the Wolfpack shot 61% in the first 20 minutes to beat the Terrapins 78-60 on Thursday at the Baha Mar Hoops Pink Flamingo Championship tournament.
“This young lady was 8-for-9 from the field, pretty unbelievable,” said N.C. State coach Wes Moore of Cunane. “We got to get her more touches. She also got 10 boards, a pretty nice day,”
Diamond Johnson added 17 points, eight rebounds, five assists and four steals for the Wolfpack.
The game was played at the Baha Mar resort in the Bahamas in a converted ballroom complete with a low ceiling and a raised stage right off midcourt. There were high school-style bleachers behind the two benches for fans.
This was the first year that there was a women’s tournament at the event which brought in four of the top seven teams in the country. No. 4 Indiana and seventh-ranked Stanford are also playing in the tournament.
N.C. State (5-1) went right at the Terrapins with the 6-foot-5 Cunane dominating the inside and Johnson controlling the outside. Maryland (6-1) trailed 11-9 with 4 minutes left in the first quarter before N.C. State scored 11 of the final 14 points to close the period and take command of the game.
“They did a terrific job pushing the tempo,” Maryland coach Brenda Frese. “Getting easy layups.”
The Wolfpack kept it going in the second quarter behind Johnson, who transferred from Rutgers in the offseason. She finished the half with 11 points, five assists, four rebounds and four steals while the Wolfpack took a 49-27 lead.
“She came in the first half and got to the rim some and got a dish or two,” Moore said. “Gave us a jolt of energy. Love having her out there.”
Maryland, which rose to No. 2 in the rankings this week — its best mark since Feb. 20, 2017, played with more energy in the second half but could only get within 15 behind Angel Reese. The sophomore forward finished with a career-best 24 points. She came into the year with a best of 20 points and had scored 23 twice already this season.
This was the worst regular-season loss for Maryland since falling to UConn by 25 points in 2017.
N.C. State: The deep Wolfpack are starting to figure out their rotations. Getting Jada Boyd back makes a good team even better.
Maryland: The Terrapins have one of the most difficult schedules in coach Brenda Frese’s career. Maryland will be extremely well tested by the time the team reaches Big Ten play.
Maryland was still missing top 3-pointer threat Katie Benzan, who didn’t make the trip because of an illness. Diamond Miller, who played a key 10 minutes in the win over No. 6 Baylor last Sunday, sat out the game because she aggravated a knee injury.
“I love the fact that given what we didn’t have, we have the fight we had in the second half,” Frese said.
The veteran coach said that it was doubtful Miller would be back for Saturday’s game against Stanford.
Boyd saw her first action of the season after having wrist surgery in September on her shooting hand. The junior forward averaged 11.5 points and 5.9 rebounds last season. She made an immediate impact with a three-point play when she stepped on the court. She finished with seven points in 10 minutes.
“Jada’s same way as Diamond. First half she played extremely well,” Moore said. “She‘s somebody that can get to the offensive boards and make a difference there. She can get to the rim and run the floor.”
The Maryland men’s basketball team is also playing at Baha Mar in a tournament. Members of the team sat on the baseline cheering on their classmates.
N.C. State plays Washington State on Saturday.
Maryland: faces seventh-ranked Stanford on Saturday.
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