Friday, September 30, 2022

Top-seeded NC State women beat Kansas State, reach Sweet 16

RALEIGH, NC ( Associated Press) — Kayla Jones scored 18 points to help top-seeded North Carolina State beat Kansas State 89-57 in Monday’s second round of the NCAA Tournament, earning a fourth straight trip to the Sweet 16.

Raina Perez and Diamond Johnson each added 15 points for the Wolfpack (31-3), who won their 12th straight game behind a dominating second-quarter performance. NC State shot 55% and made 9 of 19 3-pointers, romping to a lopsided win in front of a loud Reynolds Coliseum crowd for the final time this season.

By the end, all 13 players who entered the game for NC State had scored. And that sent NC State to next week’s regional semifinal against the Notre Dame-Oklahoma winner.

The matchup of the Associated Press second-team All-Americans Elissa Cunane of the Wolfpack and Ayoka Lee of the Wildcats never truly materialized due to foul issues. But the Bridgeport Region’s headliner instead showed off its deep roster by getting production off the bench and continuing to roll anyway.

The 6-foot-5 Cunane headed to the bench less than 3 1/2 minutes into the game with her second foul and didn’t play again before the break, finishing with four points in points in 13 minutes.

The 6-6 Lee needed a little longer to get her second before also taking a seat early at the end of the period. She finished with 12 points, well below her season average of 22.3, despite playing 31 minutes.

Camille Hobby provided a tough performance off the bench in relief of Cunane, scoring eight first-half points while avoiding picking up cheap fouls defending Lee. And that helped the Wolfpack stay on course, leading to a 12-0 burst that began with Lee on the bench.

NC State ran out to a 31-15 lead on Johnson’s transition 3-pointer followed by Perez’s jumper with 5:29 left before halftime, while Kansas State managed just one basket during a 10-minute stretch. That lead reached 20 before halftime and the ninth-seeded Wildcats never got closer than 13 in the second half.

Freshman Serena Sundell scored 17 points to lead Kansas State, which was trying to reach the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2002. But the Wildcats shot just 39% and made 7 of 25 3-pointers.

BIG PICTURE

Kansas State: The Wildcats were trying to win multiple games in the same NCAA Tournament for only the third time, the others coming in the Sweet 16 push from two decades ago and an Elite Eight trip in 1982. But they never things truly established with Lee — who scored 61 points earlier this season to set a new NCAA women’s single-game scoring record — and had few defensive answers for the Wolfpack’s flowing attack.

NC State: Cunane’s early foul trouble aside, the final home game for the All-American as well as fifth-year seniors Jones, Perez and Kai Crutchfield couldn’t have gone much smoother. That included each getting a curtain-call substitution in the final minutes to rousing cheers and a hug from coach Wes Moore, the last being Crutchfield and Cunane — who had subbed back into the game briefly to get that chance — after Moore called a timeout with 2:03 left.

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Follow Aaron Beard on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/aaronbeardap

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More Associated Press coverage of March Madness: https://apnews.com/hub/march-madness and https://apnews.com/hub/womens-college-basketball and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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