March 28, 2021 

How the Hoosiers survived N.C. State to keep dancing

Indiana ousts the top-seeded Wolfpack to advance to first Elite 8

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SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS – MARCH 27: The Indiana Hoosiers celebrate defeating the NC State Wolfpack 73-70 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)

With 2.1 seconds remaining on the clock, N.C. State Junior star Elissa Cunane heaved a three-point fadeaway jump shot that would be the last of the Wolfpack’s historic season. After leading her team to its second-straight ACC title and the program’s first ever No. 1 seed, Cunane couldn’t will the Wolfpack to a win over fourth-seeded Indiana in the Sweet Sixteen, falling 73-70 as the buzzer sounded.

N.C. State’s loss in the Mercado Region semifinals is the first loss of any No. 1 thus far in the NCAA tournament. With the win, the Indiana Hoosiers advance to their first Elite 8 in program history. The N.C. State matchup was only the second time that Indiana had reached the Sweet Sixteen, and the first time it’s done so in a 64-team NCAA tournament field.

“It means so much for us to be able to do what we did tonight and we are continuing to build our own tradition,” Indiana coach Teri Moren said. “The tradition was always on the men’s side and we wanted to build our own. People talk about Indiana basketball and we didn’t want it to be exclusive just to the men’s side.”

The Hoosiers have emerged as elite in a year when perennial South Bend, Indiana women’s basketball powerhouse Notre Dame missed the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1995.

This year marks the third year in a row that the N.C. State Wolfpack have fallen in the Sweet Sixteen round of the NCAA tournament. Coach Wes Moore — who was named WBCA Coach of the Year earlier this week — reflected on the season with an eye towards the future.

“I’m proud of our players, all they’ve done this year, all they’ve gone through. I’m proud of them today, especially, too, the way they competed and fought and got back in the game,” Moore said. “We’re going to get over the hump. We’ve got to get over the hump. So got to keep putting ourselves in this position, then hopefully close the deal and take advantage of it.”

Moore admitted to regretting a late-game timeout call, his team’s final, with 13 seconds remaining instead of forcing Indiana to use their final timeout to advance the ball.

“I messed up,” Moore said. “I was trying to get our defense aligned. But if I would have waited a second, they would have used the timeout to advance it and I could have saved ours. Again, just a mistake I regret.”

For Indiana native Ali Patberg, who finished the game with 17 points, 5 assists, and 3 rebounds, the win was a dream come true.

“This is a dream to play for Indiana. Again, I grew up right down the road. I’m a Hoosier. This means the world to me,” Patberg said. “My team, my program, our program, it’s a blessing, it’s a dream come true. To be here on this stage with my teammates and my coaches, I can’t even explain how much of a blessing it is, how thankful I am, how grateful I am to be a part of this team and this school.”

Indiana will face the No. 3-seeded Arizona on Monday evening with a trip to the Final Four on the line. The matchup pits the last two WNIT champions against each other, as Indiana won in 2018 and Arizona won in 2019.

Written by Tee Baker

Tee has been a contributor to The Next since March Madness 2021 and is currently a contributing editor, BIG EAST beat reporter and curator of historical deep dives.

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