RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Grace Hunter put No. 9 North Carolina State on its way to a share of school history before she was hurt. That injury kept the Wolfpack from savoring their latest milestone.
Hunter scored 14 points before injuring her right knee in the final minutes of a 63-51 victory over Duke on Thursday night that helped N.C. State match the best start in program history.
Aislinn Konig also had 14 points with four 3-pointers, and Erika Cassell and Elissa Cunane finished with 11 points apiece, with Cunane scoring seven straight points in the final 3 minutes in the Atlantic Coast Conference opener for both schools. That helped the Wolfpack (14-0) join late Hall of Famer Kay Yow’s 1999-2000 team as the only ones at the school to begin a season with 14 straight wins.
“What that shows to me is that you’re bringing it every night, you’re ready to play, and even on a night when things don’t go your way, you’re able to overcome that adversity and find a way to win,” coach Wes Moore said. “I’m proud of what they’ve been able to do on a consistent basis.”
Still, Moore called the victory “bittersweet” after Hunter collapsed to the floor while driving to the basket with 1:14 remaining. The redshirt junior who transferred from Charlotte averages a team-best 14.6 points. Moore didn’t yet know the severity of the injury but said it “doesn’t look good.”
“I know it was definitely a solemn locker room after the game,” Moore said. “It was hard to fully enjoy it, that’s for sure.”
N.C. State matched a season worst with 19 turnovers, but the ACC’s best rebounding team overcame that by building a 47-31 advantage on the glass and outscored the taller Blue Devils 30-14 in the paint.
“The rebounding stats tell the story,” Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie said. “You just can’t give second shots like we did.”
Haley Gorecki scored 19 points and Mikayla Boykin finished with 13 for the Blue Devils (8-5), who went 8 minutes in the fourth quarter between field goals while N.C. State outscored them 16-2. The bulk of that came on layups from Hunter and Cunane, before DD Rogers hit a free throw with 1:28 left to make it 59-46.
Duke: Plenty in this one for the Blue Devils to build upon. They rallied from 12 points down in the third quarter by scoring 13 straight points, with Gorecki’s 3 roughly 30 seconds into the fourth putting them up 44-43. They just didn’t have another rally left in them — or enough time to do it — and were denied their first victory over a top-10 opponent as an unranked team since they knocked off No. 3 South Carolina two years ago.
N.C. State: This Wolfpack team is in good company, joining the team 19 years ago that Yow led to a 14-0 start. There aren’t any ranked opponents on the scheduled until February, but with Hunter’s health in question, figuring out how to play without her might wind up being the biggest obstacle N.C. State faces for a while.
N.C. State has won five of six in a neighborhood series that formerly was dominated by Duke — which had won nine of the previous 10.
N.C. State held Duke to a season-worst 29.1 percent shooting. The Wolfpack entered holding their opponents to 33.3 percent from the field. . The Blue Devils’ 12.5 percent shooting in the fourth quarter was the worst in school history. … Gorecki (four field goals) and Boykin (two) were the only Duke players with baskets in the second half. The rest of the team combined to go 0-for-9. . The Blue Devils have lost four straight against ranked opponents.