Johnson leads NC State women’s basketball to thrilling victory over No. 7 Notre Dame | Sports

Johnson leads NC State women’s basketball to thrilling victory over No. 7 Notre Dame | Sports

NC State women’s basketball defeated the Notre Dame Fighting Irish on Sunday, Jan. 29 in front of a massive crowd at Reynolds Coliseum. The Pack beat the top-ranked team in the ACC 69-65 in a heated contest.

The No. 20 Wolfpack (16-5, 6-4 ACC) fed off of the electric atmosphere in Reynolds to hand the No. 7 Fighting Irish (17-3, 8-2 ACC) their third loss of the season. Despite the red-and-white’s unfortunate start to the new year, the team has sold out the remainder of its home games, including Sunday’s contest.

“No doubt our fans are an unbelievable advantage for us,” said head coach Wes Moore. “In this arena, the way they’re all jammed in there is a big plus for us.”

Junior guard Diamond Johnson thrived on her home court, leading the Pack with 20 points, five assists and eight rebounds. Johnson finally seems to have returned to her old self after a couple of weeks of taking it easy due to lingering effects from her ankle injury. None of Notre Dame’s defenders could match her almost supernatural speed and agility, allowing her to create scoring opportunities for herself or one of her teammates when the Wolfpack needed it the most.

Johnson made the biggest impact in the second half of the game, but her offensive and defensive energy played a huge role in getting the team’s momentum rolling at the start of the contest. The Irish led for the entire first quarter and into the second, but NC State had no trouble keeping pace with them and eventually took its first lead of the game just over three minutes into the second quarter. After that, the Pack would only fall behind once for the remainder of the game.

In the second quarter, the Wolfpack shined defensively, serving to further fuel its offense, which had already been firing on all cylinders. The red-and-white outscored the Fighting Irish 19-9 in the period as Notre Dame seemed to be increasingly rattled by the Pack’s aggressive defense coupled with the insane energy from NC State’s supporters.

Sophomore guard Saniya Rivers closed out the half in style with a last-second floater in the lane to make it 34-29 and send the crowd into a frenzy.

NC State returned to the court at the start of the third with just as much intensity as it had left with. Balanced scoring and efficient passing enabled the Wolfpack to take a double-digit lead midway through the period. The game slipped further and further out of Notre Dame’s grasp as Johnson and graduate forward Mimi Collins combined for 16 points in the third.

Heading into the fourth quarter with a 58-46 lead, NC State fans were starting to think the team was about to have another ranked win under its belt. However, the Fighting Irish weren’t going to let the Pack have it that easily. Notre Dame went on an 11-0 run that spanned four minutes to cut the lead to just three points at 62-59.

Despite the Wolfpack’s double-digit cushion being snatched away in a matter of minutes, the team managed to stay cool under pressure and maintain a small lead for the remainder of the contest, where Johnson hit a jumper and a pair of free throws in the last few minutes to seal the game.

Both Moore and Johnson were proud to point out the major improvements the red-and-white has made since its losses to Boston College and Florida State at the beginning of the month, which were on display in this victory over a ranked opponent.

“We went through a little adversity, but it helped us learn and helped us get our defense better,” Johnson said. “Every loss is a lesson, and I think that’s what we took from our early ACC losses.”

The Pack will look to extend its win streak to four when the team travels to Atlanta to take on the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets on Thursday, Feb. 2. Tip-off is set for 8 p.m.