SAN MARCOS, Texas — Jada Boyd scored 15 of her 18 points in the second half to help top-seeded North Carolina State overcome a slow start and coast to a 79-58 win over 16 seed NC A&T in the first round of the women’s NCAA Tournament on Sunday.
N.C. State (21-2) is making its fourth straight tournament appearance and 26th overall, but earned a No. 1 seed for the first time. The Wolfpack will face eighth-seeded South Florida in the second round.
The Aggies led by as many as six in the second quarter. But N.C. State used a big run to take a seven-point lead into halftime before Boyd scored the first six points of the second half to make it 50-37 with 7 1/2 minutes left in the third.
“We didn’t particularly look like a No. 1 seed or any of that in the first half,” N.C. State coach Wes Moore said. “But hopefully it was just a situation where we’d been off so long … and maybe this will help us knock a little bit of the rust off and maybe draw from it and have some confidence.”
The Wolfpack had pushed the lead to 15 later in the third before wrapping up the quarter with a 7-2 run, highlighted by Boyd’s 3, to make it 64-44 entering the fourth.
Moore raved about Boyd’s performance.
“She does that a lot,” he said. “She’s so athletic and long. We needed a lift. We needed a bolt of injury and I thought she really gave that to us.”
Chanin Scott’s 3-pointer cut the lead to 17 with about six minutes remaining. N.C. State then scored nine straight points over the next two minutes to extend the lead to 77-51 and Moore cleared his bench soon after that.
Boyd wasn’t sure if the Wolfpack’s early struggles were more a product of NC A&T playing well or their struggles.
“A&T they came out hitting all their shots so it might have been a little bit of both,” she said. “Two weeks is a long time to go without playing a game, so it was difficult but we ended up getting it together.”
Elissa Cunane, N.C. State’s 6-foot-5 leading scorer, added 12 points despite fighting through near-constant double teams. Cunane was coming off an MVP performance in leading the Wolfpack to a second straight Atlantic Coast Conference tournament title by scoring a combined 70 points in three games.
NC A&T (14-3), which won the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference title, was making its fifth trip to the tournament and third in six seasons. The Aggies dropped to 0-5 in the tournament and 0-10 against N.C. State. They were led by Scott, who had 23 points and seven rebounds.
NC A&T coach Tarrell Robinson was asked about the difference in his team in the first and second halves.
“Their intensity, our lack of focus,” he said. “What I talked to our young women about in regards to teams like N.C. State, we haven’t played a team like that all this year, is that they take away your first option. You may have scored off of them, but the next possession it’s not going to be there.”
N.C. State led by three in the second quarter before the Aggies scored the next nine points to take a 35-29 lead with about five minutes left in the quarter. D’mya Tucker started that run with a 3-pointer and added a steal between four points by Scott.
The Wolfpack got going after that, ending the quarter on a 15-2 run to take a 44-37 lead into halftime. Kai Crutchfield made a 3-pointer, grabbed a steal and finished with a layup to cap N.C. State’s scoring in that stretch. She had 14 points.
BY THE NUMBERS
The Wolfpack outscored the Aggies 40-22 in the paint. … N.C. State scored 28 points off 13 NC A&T turnovers. … The N.C. State bench outscored the Aggies bench 33-15. … The Wolfpack also had the advantage in second-chance points 13-3.
Senior starter Kayla Jones didn’t play in the second half after injuring her knee in the second quarter. Moore doesn’t think it’s serious but isn’t sure if she’ll be available on Tuesday.
“She’s going to get an MRI tonight and see what’s going on,” he said. “We don’t think it’s an ACL but it’s really tender.”