RALEIGH, N.C. – The host No. 3 seed N.C. State Wolfpack and No. 5 seed Kentucky Wildcats both advanced in 2019 NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament opening-round play at Reynolds Coliseum on Saturday.
The 17th-ranked Wildcats trailed Ivy-League champions and No. 11 seed Princeton 37-33 at halftime but got their offense in order during the final 20 minutes and pulled out an 82-77 win in the first game of the day.
The 10th-ranked Wolfpack had an easier time against 14th-seeded Maine, carrying a 39-22 halftime lead that developed into a 63-51 finish.
N.C. State and Kentucky will tip off on Monday on Kay Yow Court in Valvano Arena at a time to be announced.
Wildcats pick apart Princeton zone
While both Kentucky and Princeton got double-digit contributions from four players, the Tigers’ rebounding margin of 38-26 was counterbalanced and trumped by 16 turnovers that the Wildcats converted into 22 points.
Princeton all-time 3-point shooter Gabriele Rush led the Tiger offense with 22 points, comprised of six 3-pointers while projected top-5 WNBA pick Bella Alarie added a double-double 20 points and 15 rebounds on 8-of-24 shooting.
It almost was enough to top Kentucky who hadn’t played in two weeks since an early exit in the SEC Tournament.
But dual 19-point efforts from Maci Morris and Taylor Murray kept the Wildcat offense rolling, eventually vaulting into the lead during the third quarter, outscoring the Tigers by a 28-15 margin.
Though playing catch-up, Princeton had its chances to comeback but fell short in the two teams’ first-ever meeting.
Wolfpack kicks into gear and cruises past Black Bears
Facing the Black Bears for the second time this season, the Wolfpack didn’t overwhelm them as much in their rematch but put together a strong first half to carry on to a successful finish.
Kiara Leslie’s 20 points along with 16 from Elissa Cunane and 14 from Kai Crutchfield pushed N.C. State forward all game.
Even though the Wolfpack successfully dropped six 3s, five of which came in the first half, the Black Bears outdid them by putting up 37 shot attempts beyond the arc and hitting on 11 of them.
Maine’s Parise Rossignol and Dor Saar, claimed nine 3-pointers combined and finished with 19 and 16 points respectively.
While attempting to come back, the Black Bears’ inability to rebound nor score inside was the advantage the Wolfpack used to win an NCAA first-round game for the third straight year.
N.C. State outrebounded the Black Bears by a 38-29 margin, scored 32 points in the paint, and claimed 16 of a possible 18 points on turnovers.
To its credit, Maine left the court with heads held high having outscored the Wolfpack in the second half by a 29-24 differential.
Peter Koutroumpis: 401-323-8960, @pksport