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Keys to victory: Indiana has its work cut out against top-seeded NC State in Sweet 16

With two dominant performances to open up NCAA Tournament play, Indiana now focuses on the No. 1 seed in the Mercado Region — the NC State Wolfpack. This matchup will take place at 6 p.m. Saturday in San Antonio.

Let’s take a look at the Hoosiers’ opponent in the first Sweet 16 game in Indiana women’s basketball history.

Previewing NC State

The Wolfpack are as red-hot as any team in the tournament, as they are riding a 10-game win streak including an ACC tournament championship victory over a very good Louisville team. Throughout the year, NC State has had seven different leading scorers, which shows you the depth this Wolfpack team possesses.

Similar to Indiana, defense has been the calling card for the Wolfpack. They have held the majority of their ACC competition in the low 60s for point totals. NC State does not allow its opponents a lot of second chances, grabbing around 30 defensive rebounds per game just in the NCAA Tournament.

Offensively, there are many threats on the floor that Indiana will need to account for come Saturday night. Elissa Cunane has been huge for NC State inside recently. The 6-foot-5 All-American center has been the team’s leading scorer in four of the past six games, while also grabbing double-digit rebounds in some of those games. 

What makes the Wolfpack so dangerous is they can score from all different levels on the court. To balance out Cunane inside, Jakia Brown-Turner, Raina Perez and Kai Crutchfield give NC State some threats from beyond the arc. Those three were instrumental in a huge third quarter to take down South Florida on Tuesday. 

Three keys for Indiana

Rebounding

Fortunately for the Hoosiers, the Wolfpack could be without Kayla Jones, one of the best rebounders on the team. However, Indiana will still have to deal with Cunane, and it will be quite the task. Brown-Tucker has also been very active on the glass in recent games, so Mackenzie Holmes and Aleksa Gulbe will most definitely need to take her into account when grabbing boards.

But if the Hoosiers can box out and rebound well like they did against other centers in the Big Ten throughout the year, they can limit Cunane and Brown-Tucker’s second chance opportunities Saturday night.

Making shots

With NC State being the great defensive team it is, Indiana is going to have to make open shots. IU can’t afford any cold stretches, or it could turn into a nightmare for the Hoosiers on the offensive end.

It will be a tough matchup for Holmes offensively, with Cunane likely to match up against her, but if Holmes can establish the inside game like she has done all year, you could see NC State get a little out of sorts since they have an excellent interior defense.

Getting off to a strong start

On Tuesday against South Florida, the Wolfpack didn’t play their best basketball in the first half, allowing the Bulls to take a one-point lead into the halftime locker room. Granted, NC State did end up winning the game by double digits, but this is a point in the game where Indiana can get an edge on the Wolfpack.

One thing that is for certain is that the Hoosiers can’t afford a slow start. NC State is too good of a team to get down early to, and it could severely hurt the Hoosiers’ chances of winning the game. Indiana will have to play flawless in order to pull off the upset and move on to the Elite Eight.

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