Contact tracing at NC State puts hold on showdown against No. 2 Louisville

The third-ranked Wolfpack women last played on Jan. 3 and had Thursday’s game against Virginia postponed

Point guard Raina Perez and the Wolfpack were 10-0, including 5-0 in the ACC, when their season was put on hold due to the coronavirus. (Sean Rayford / AP Photo)

The most anticipated game of the ACC women’s basketball regular season, scheduled for Sunday, will have to wait.

With NC State still under COVID-19 protocols following a positive test last week, the showdown between the league’s 2019-20 regular season and tournament champions — No. 2 Louisville and the third-ranked Wolfpack  — has been postponed.

The ACC made the announcement on Wednesday.

It is the fourth postponement since coach Wes Moore’s team began dealing with its COVID-19 issues. Thursday’s scheduled home date against Virginia has also been been put on hold because of continued coronavirus concerns.

Along with State, Florida State, Syracuse and Virginia are also dealing with quarantines and contact tracing.

Although the Wolfpack is not in an official teamwide pause, its workouts have been limited to smaller groups among the players that are available.

The disruption couldn’t have come at a more inopportune time for State (10-0, 5-0), which was playing its best basketball of the disjointed season when the pandemic hit home two days after a 76-57 rout of Boston College at Reynolds Coliseum on Jan. 3.

Junior center Elissa Cunane, who was named to the Wooden Award’s midseason top 25 as one of the nation’s best players, led the way against the Eagles by going 9 of 9 from the floor on the way to a season-high 24 points. She also had eight rebounds a career-high three steals and two blocks.

Graduate transfer point guard Raina Perez had her most productive game since joining the Wolfpack with 16 points and nine assists.

Sophomore wing Jada Boyd, meanwhile, was named the ACC’s Player of the Week after averaging 18 points and nine rebounds in wins against BC and Georgia Tech.

Despite the setback off the court, Cunane’s comments following the BC game suggest that she and her teammates are confident they’ll be able to pick up where they left off once they’re allowed to resume playing.

“We’ve just stayed level-headed,” she said. “If we’re going to play the next day or not, we’re still going to practice hard and still going to work on ourselves so that when it comes time to play, we’ll be ready. Whoever it is, even if we don’t have (scouting reports), we’ll have the fundamentals.”

Cunane said that one of the team’s greatest strengths is the bond it has developed in the face of the challenges associated with the coronavirus pandemic.

“We’re just handling it together,” she said. “We have each other’s backs, which has showed in the way we’ve played.”

The resolve shown by the Wolfpack is in direct contrast to the approach taken by ACC rival Duke, which decided to opt-out for the remainder of the season over health and safety concerns.

Moore, in an interview shortly before the Blue Devils’ decision in December, addressed those concerns and difficulties involved with playing during a worldwide pandemic.

“I think we’re doing a lot of things to make sure we’re staying as safe as possible,” he said. “I mean, these kids, they’re not going to sit in their room 24 hours a day. It just isn’t going to happen. Whether they’re here or at home, they’re going out, whether it’s going to get something to eat or hang out or whatever. Again, we preach every day about trying to stay safe. When you’re eating, try to stay 6 feet away from someone.

“I think a lot of people are getting it wherever they are and, obviously, we want to try and avoid it the best we can. But I think we’re doing a pretty good job. They’re being tested a lot, and we’re trying to encourage them to stay safe as much as we can.”