The NC State women’s basketball team avenged its previous loss to North Carolina with a 82-63 win at home on Sunday, Feb. 21 in the annual Play4Kay game. With a win against the Tar Heels, the Wolfpack split the season series with its local rival.
“I’m proud of our effort; North Carolina has a lot of weapons out there offensively,” said head coach Wes Moore. “I thought we as a team did a pretty nice job for the most part.”
The matchup started slow for both squads, as NC State (15-2, 10-2 ACC) ended the first half shooting only 34.3%, while UNC (11-9, 6-9 ACC) shot even worse at 24.2%. The Tar Heels seemed to be doomed by their own shooting throughout the game, as North Carolina ended the half without a basket from beyond the arc, standing at 0-for-12 from the 3-point line, and ending the game shooting just 20.8% from that range.
The second half was a different story, as the Wolfpack was able to drop 51 points in the third and fourth quarters, increasing NC State’s lead and giving the Pack a 19-point victory.
“I think we settled down a little bit offensively and shot the ball better,” Moore said. “The first half, I’m not sure if we were too hyped up, but I thought we rushed some shots. Part of it is being patient and getting good looks and a rhythm.”
The Wolfpack saw a strong second half, hitting half of its 3-point shots and making 55.9% of its field goal attempts. Three of the five made shots from beyond the arc in the second half came from sophomore wing Jakia Brown-Turner, who went 4-for-5 from 3 in the game and had a career-high 25 points for the day.
“It was very personal for me,” Brown-Turner said. “I didn't play as well as I wanted to the first time we played UNC, and I took a lot of bad shots, so I just knew today I had to not worry about scoring and just play the game and do whatever coach Moore needed me to do for the team.”
Joining Brown-Turner in double digits was senior forward Kayla Jones with 20 points and eight rebounds, as well as junior center Elissa Cunane with another double-double, scoring 17 points with 14 rebounds.
“We just decided to play,” Jones said. “We take every game; we don’t take it for granted. We are thankful to play, and I just wanted to play with a lot of emotion because I feel like that gets my team going. Coach Moore pulled me aside at practice and told me, ‘We need you to play with emotion, whether you’re doing good or not,’ so regardless I just tried to play with a lot of emotion to keep my team going.”
Not only was this a victory for the Wolfpack against one of its biggest rivals, but it is a victory for NC State’s Play4Kay game, an annual event held to raise awareness for breast cancer and honor late coach Kay Yow. The win snaps a two-year losing streak in the event.
“We try to protect our house,” Jones said. “Playing on coach Kay Yow Court is amazing, and we try to do it for her. Today was the pink game, and it just felt good here. I know we didn’t have our normal fans here, but the ones we did have you could feel it, and it was just a great atmosphere.”
With the Wolfpack’s latest win, NC State is looking ahead to the ACC Tournament, where it will surely earn a high seed. The Pack has just two losses overall with two games remaining on the regular-season schedule before the tournament in Greensboro starts the first week of March.
“If you want to survive and advance, you're going to have a game or two where you don’t shoot well,” Moore said. “In the postseason, if you don’t defend and rebound, you’re going home. I hope we are getting better, and we better be getting better if we want to be sticking around in March.”
NC State will return to action Thursday, Feb. 25 as it hosts Pittsburgh at Reynolds Coliseum at 4 p.m.