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NC State’s top-ranked women beat Kansas State to reach Sweet 16

RALEIGH, NC (AP) — Kayla Jones scored 18 points to help top-seeded North Carolina State beat Kansas State 89-57 in the second round of the NCAA Tournament on Monday, winning a fourth consecutive trip to the Sweet 16.

Raina Perez and Diamond Johnson each added 15 points for the Wolfpack (31-3), which won its 12th straight game behind a dominating second quarter performance. NC State shot 55% and made 9 of 19 3-pointers, earning a lopsided victory in front of a raucous crowd at Reynolds Coliseum for the last 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 winner Notre Dame-Oklahoma.

The game between Associated Press second-team All-Americans Elissa Cunane of the Wolfpack and Ayoka Lee of the Wildcats never really materialized due to foul play issues. But the Bridgeport-area headliner instead showed off his deep roster by taking production off the bench and continuing to roll anyway.

The 6-foot-5 Cunane headed to the bench less than 3½ minutes into the game with his second foul and didn’t play again before the break, finishing with four points in 13 minutes.

The 6-6 Lee needed a bit more time to clinch second place before sitting out so early late in 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 points in the first half while avoiding picking up cheap fouls defending Lee. And that helped the Wolfpack stay the course, leading to a 12-0 flurry that started with Lee on the bench.

NC State took a 31-15 lead on Johnson’s 3-point transition, followed by Perez’ jumper with 5:29 left before halftime, while Kansas State managed just one field goal during a period of 10 minutes. That lead grew to 20 before halftime and the ninth-seeded Wildcats never got closer to 13 in the second half.

Rookie 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 percent 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 really 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 fluid offense.

NC State: Cunane’s early foul issues aside, the final home game for the All-Americans as well as fifth-year seniors Jones, Perez and Kai Crutchfield couldn’t have been smoother. It each included a substitution to the curtain in the final minutes for enthusiastic cheers and a hug from coach Wes Moore, the last being Crutchfield and Cunane – who had briefly returned to play for that chance – after Moore called a time. dead with 2:03 remaining.

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

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




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