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Indiana survives late NC State rally as first No. 1 seed falls in NCAA women's tournament

Jason Owens
·2-min read

NC State made a habit this March of falling behind early before rallying to victory.

It should have stuck with that game plan.

The top-seeded Wolfpack surged to a 22-14 first-quarter edge on Saturday only to watch No. 4 seed Indiana take over before halftime en route to a 73-70 Sweet 16 victory. The Hoosiers advance to the regional final round while the Wolfpack are the first No. 1 seed to exit the NCAA women's tournament.

Hoosiers rally from sluggish start

NC State looked in control while holding Indiana to 8-of-27 shooting to start the game. But Indiana closed the second quarter with a 6-0 run that it extended to 19-2 in the third quarter before taking a 58-48 lead into the fourth.

Indiana maintained the 10-point edge, holding a 70-60 lead with 2:53 remaining. But it was playing without its best player after leading scorer and rebounder Mackenzie Holmes fouled out on an offensive foul with 3:24 remaining.

Nicole Cardano-Hillary #4 of the Indiana Hoosiers and Raina Perez #2 of the NC State Wolfpack chase a loose ball during the first half in the Sweet Sixteen round of the NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament at the Alamodome on March 27, 2021 in San Antonio, Texas. (Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)
Nicole Cardano-Hillary, left, hit critical late free throws to secure Indiana's win. (Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)

Late NCSU rally with IU's best player benched falls short

The Wolfpack rallied with Holmes on the bench to cut Indiana's lead to as close as two points in the game's final minute. But All-American Elissa Cunane's desperation 3-point heave missed the mark as time ran out, sealing Indiana's first-ever trip to the Elite Eight.

The loss was NC State's first this season against a ranked opponent.

The Hoosiers rode a balanced effort to victory with all five starters scoring in double figures. Ali Patberg led the way with 17 points and five assists while Holmes tallied 16 points, four rebounds and two blocks despite the foul trouble.

Aleksa Gulpe (11 points, 10 rebounds) and Grace Berger (12 points, 12 rebounds) each posted double-doubles while Nicole Cardano-Hillary scored 14 points, including the two biggest free throws of the game.

50% shooter seals win at the free throw line

NC State was forced to foul while trailing in the game's final minute. With Indiana holding a 70-68 lead, NC State sent Cardano-Hillary to the line with 22 seconds remaining. A 50% free-throw shooter on the season, she sank both shots to extend the Hoosiers' lead to two possessions, a deficit NC State would not overcome.

Jada Boyd led the NC State effort with 18 points while Cunane tallied 15 points and 12 rebounds. But she needed at least three more.

The loss marks a disappointing end for an NC State team seeking its second Final Four appearance and its first national championship. The win sends Indiana into uncharted territory as it eyes its first Final Four berth in Monday's regional final against the winner of Arizona vs. Texas A&M.

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