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NC State Women's Basketball

Elissa Cunane: 'We knew we could go further than the Sweet 16'

March 27, 2021

Despite all five starters scoring at least nine points, including 15 points and 12 rebounds from Elissa Cunane, the Wolfpack fell short in a 73-70 NCAA Sweet 16 loss to Indiana. 

Cunane spoke to the media following the loss, here’s a full breakdown of everything she had to say: 

You guys had 17 turnovers in this game. I know they were doing a lot to collapse on you especially down low. What was Indiana doing defensively that made it difficult?

They were just playing hard. They wanted to win. They were playing like it. We definitely had some turnovers. I know I had multiple turnovers that were unforced. I could have taken care of the ball a lot better. Turnovers were definitely a big reason why they won this game.

We knew they were going to have good pressure and defense from the jump. That was just bad execution on our part. Like I said, I know I turned it over a bunch, too, so that's on me.

When you're thinking about this season in 10 to 15 years, how will you reflect on it performance-wise and then with COVID and everything going on?

It’s really easy to be disappointed in this moment. I think we’ll be disappointed forever. We could have gone further than what we did.

But looking back on it, just what this team has done this year despite all the differences, I mean, getting to the NCAA tournament, making history as a No. 1 seed, back-to-back ACC champions, there’s a lot to look back on. Just knowing the support staff, the coaches, everybody that worked hard, didn’t see their family, their kids, anyone, just for us to play basketball this season. It's really amazing.

It was a blessing that we got this season in. So we'll definitely look back on it and be disappointed. But I'm definitely thankful for just everyone who worked hard for us to have the season. I'm really thankful for that.

Would you take me through, you had the ball down two in the closing 20 seconds or so. Did you like the look you got inside? What was going through your mind from that possession?

Yeah, it wasn't exactly the look we planned for. But I did get it down low, which is what coach Moore drew up for me, to get the ball down low. I just didn't execute it. It was a good look. They were doubling all game. I had a little double there. I could have finished that. So it was the look we were looking for. I got it inside, just was unable to execute that.

You had several fourth-quarter comebacks this season. You talked about in the ACC Tournament how when you were down in the fourth quarter, you still knew you were going to have that comeback. Did it feel the same today even though that margin was a little bit wider, or did it feel different?

Yeah, you know, I never doubted that we could win that game until the buzzer went off. I think the team never doubted each other, too. We all had each other’s backs in the huddles, knowing we could come back, we've done it multiple times this season. That has been the story. We didn't start off too hot in any of the games in any the NCAA tournament, I don't think the ACC Tournament we started off hot. We knew we were going to come back in the second half. We made a run for it. It just fell short. But never once doubted this team.

Mackenzie Holmes fouled out with 3:24 to go. You went on the run to cut it to two. How much did her absence contribute to that from a physical standpoint and a mental standpoint?

She was a good player. She’s a good scorer down low. I think knowing she was out of the game, we could try to put a little bit more pressure on the ball, not worry about getting it inside so much.

Then I think offensively we just tried to attack. If one big fouled out, that means we were getting calls going inside, either finishing or getting calls. We just continued to try to attack inside.

On the last possession, what was supposed to happen? What did happen?

We didn't have any timeouts, so we knew we had to get a 3 up. We just ran a pick on the ball play to try to get open at the top of the key. I mean, I kind of got a look. But, yeah, trying to get a 3-pointer up.

When you look back so far through your career, we've all watched you progress at different levels, what is the biggest thing you think you might have taken away out of this tournament?

I think it would just be that I'm not where I want to be as a player at all. I definitely grew a lot in this offseason, this past offseason. But I think there’s no room to settle right now. As a player I’m just not really where I want to be. I’m super thankful for all the accolades and everything that comes my way. That’s just really a team award. Personally there's a lot more work that I want to do to be able to perform at this level and take my team further into the tournament.

I know there's a lot of emotion in the moment right now, but do you think there's a chance that it stings maybe a little bit more because of all the sacrifices, ups and downs of having a season during COVID, then you isolate in San Antonio for over two weeks? Is all that going through your mind at this point in time or is it going to take time to reflect on the season as a whole?

Yeah, I’ll definitely take some time to reflect on the season, look at more ups. Right now I'm just looking at the downs. It definitely does suck that you got this far yet to get nowhere. I’m proud of us for getting to the Sweet 16, but that wasn’t our goal. We knew we could go further than the Sweet 16. We’re a No. 1 seed; there’s no reason why we couldn’t have won this tournament.

So I think that knowing that, knowing expectations that we set on our team, coming up short, it just kind of sucks.

I think I’m super, super thankful for our whole support staff who has taken care of us while we've been in San Antonio. I'm thankful for the NCAA for having this tournament, whether there's disparities or not. I'm really just thankful that everything happened, that we were able to be here but it definitely does suck. We definitely could have gone further in the tournament. That's going to be on the shoulders of us for the rest of our time here and beyond.


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