No. 1 North Carolina State runs past Longwood 96-68

Five North Carolina State players scored in double digits as the No. 1 Wolfpack pulled away from No. 16 Longwood for a 96-68 victory Saturday in the first round of the women’s NCAA Tournament

ByMitchell Northam Associated Press
March 19, 2022, 5:48 PM
North Carolina State's Raina Perez, right, drives past Longwood's Kennedy Calhoun (4) during the second half of a college basketball game in the first round of the NCAA tournament in Raleigh, N.C., Saturday, March 19, 2022. (AP Photo/Ben McKeown)
North Carolina State's Raina Perez, right, drives past Longwood's Kennedy Calhoun (4) during the second half of a college basketball game in the first round of the NCAA tournament in Raleigh, N.C., Saturday, March 19, 2022. (AP Photo/Ben McKeown)
The Associated Press

RALEIGH, N.C. -- Raina Perez scored 16 points to lead five North Carolina State players in double digits as the No. 1 Wolfpack pulled away from No. 16 Longwood for a 96-68 victory Saturday in the first round of the women’s NCAA Tournament.

Perez made seven of her eight shots for N.C. State, which won a program-record 30th game this season. Jakia Brown-Turner had 15 points and seven rebounds, and Elissa Cunane tallied 13 points and seven boards. Diamond Johnson and Jada Boyd added 12 points apiece.

Looming for N.C. State on Monday is a rematch with No. 9 Kansas State, a team the Wolfpack beat in non-conference play back in November. It will pit two AP All-America post players against each other, with Cunane matching up with 6-foot-6 Ayoka Lee.

“We’ve had all week, so we’ve prepared for all of the teams, pretty much,” Wolfpack coach Wes Moore said. “It’s a tough match-up down there on the block. You know, (Lee) scored 61 against Oklahoma. That’s scary.”

Longwood (22-12) got a career-high 25 points from Tra’dayja Smith and 19 from Kyla McMakin.

The Lancers kept things close with the Wolfpack early on, trailing by just four points with 4:57 to play in the second quarter. Then, following a timeout, N.C. State flipped the switch and broke off a 19-2 run to end the half. Perez had seven points, an assist and a steal during that span, and she didn’t miss a shot until the third quarter.

“I kind of take my shots as they come. I try not to force anything,” Perez said. “But if I’m open, I’m going to take it.”

N.C. State would grow its lead to as much as 29 points in the second half, but Longwood matched them in scoring, 26-26, in the third quarter.

“I think we were just being true competitors,” Smith said. “Like, you’re not just going to lay down and just take punch after punch; you’re going to punch back.”

TIP-INS

Cunane, Perez and fifth-year seniors Kayla Jones and Kai Crutchfield did not play in the fourth quarter for N.C. State as Moore emptied his bench. … Crutchfield didn’t score, but had team-highs with five assists and three steals. … The game was a sellout for host N.C. State, its ninth of the season. … McMakin, a junior, became the all-time leading scorer in Longwood history, rewriting the Lancers’ record book in 88 games.

BIG PICTURE

N.C. State: As expected, the Wolfpack are moving on to the Round of 32. N.C. State won big over Longwood, but didn’t always play efficiently. N.C. State had 12 turnovers on the day, missed six free throws, and allowed the Lancers to score 26 points in the third quarter. And in the second half, the Wolfpack’s 3-point shooting dipped to 26.7%. Still, the Wolfpack had its third-highest scoring total of the season.

“I think we were just in our heads. We missed a lot of shots we didn’t get back,” Perez said. “But we just tried to stretch the lead, honestly, and wanted to come out strong and just dominate the game.”

Longwood: The Lancers faced a disadvantage in size, speed and skill. Still, they were competitive at times with the reigning Atlantic Coast Conference champs. The Lancers made history this season by making the NCAA Tournament for the first time, and winning a game in it by topping Mount St. Mary’s in the First Four. Most of Longwood’s core is expected to return next year, including Akila Smith – who had 10 points Saturday and 32 in the First Four – if she uses her fifth year of eligibility.

“All of the women in our locker room should be incredibly proud of their season, the historical nature of all of their accomplishments and their performances today,” Longwood coach Rebecca Tillett said. “I thought our women just fought, over and over and over again.”

UP NEXT

Monday’s match-up is the second time Kansas State has played at N.C. State this season. The Wolfpack beat the Wildcats 90-69 on Nov. 19, 2021. Lee had 19 points while Cunane had 18.

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More AP women’s college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/womens-college-basketball and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-womens-college-basketball-poll and https://twitter.com/AP—Top25

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