NC State

NC State women win Play 4 Kay game 80-66, hand UNC 3rd straight loss

Miah Spencer finished with 25 points and 10 assists Sunday to tie her career high, leading N.C. State to an 80-66 win over North Carolina in ACC women’s basketball.

The contest at Carmichael Arena was televised on ESPN 2 in the Tar Heels’ annual Play 4 Kay game in memory of the late Wolfpack coach Kay Yow.

State improved to 18-9, 9-5 in ACC play, while the Tar Heels fell to 14-15, 4-10 after their third straight loss. It was the Wolfpack’s first season sweep of the Tar Heels since 2000 and the first win at Carmichael since 2010.

Dominique Wilson added 19 points while Jennifer Mathurin added 14 points and 11 rebounds for her seventh career double-double for the Wolfpack, which trailed by 17 points in the first half.

“I couldn’t be prouder of this team,” N.C. State coach Wes Moore said. “To fall down the way we did, we knew North Carolina would come out and be the aggressor, and they came out firing ‘3s’ up from everywhere. It would have been easy for our kids to just say, ‘Hey, it’s not our day.’ I told them during the media timeout of the second period, I think we were down 15, ‘Let’s try to cut this thing to single digits.’ Little did I know we would be the one ahead.”

N.C. State won despite a season-high 30 points for UNC freshman Stephanie Watts, who tied her rebound high with 13. Destinee Walker and Jamie Cherry added 13 points each.

N.C. State had given the Tar Heels an unlikely 78-49 drubbing in their first meeting on Jan. 31 at Broughton High’s Holliday Gym.

“Sometimes we didn’t match up on transition defense well,” the freshman Watts said. “That was one of the main things we tried to work on in practice, so that led to a couple quick ‘3s.’ I know like two times down they got back-to-back ‘3s’ so that hit us hard. I think that when we weren’t playing well on offense, shots stopped falling on offense, and I think that kind of messed up our defense, as well.

N.C. State shot 43.8 percent from the floor to 32.1 percent for the Tar Heels, won the rebound battle 44-34 and committed 16 turnovers to UNC’s 13.

The Wolfpack trailed 36-21 after a Watts’ 3-pointer with 5:40 left in the second quarter before going on a 27-2 run. Watts hit the first of two free throws with 7:03 left in the third to make it 52-39.

“We started out great,” UNC coach Sylvia Hatchell said. “They were fired up and making shots. I thought we did really good, and State’s got a lot of weapons. They’re a very veteran team. Pretty much their whole team is juniors and seniors.

“ I loved how we started off, but then they started making shots and we started making mistakes,” she added. “It’s been like that this year. We play really good at times, and then the momentum gets turned and it’s hard to right the ship.”

The key stretch was in the closing seconds of the first half. With 30 seconds remaining, Carlee Schumacher hit a five-foot one-touch jumper on Spencer’s pass from out of bounds with one second left on the shot clock. Wilson hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer after a Tar Heel turnover, and the momentum was in the Wolfpack’s direction the rest of the way.

“We had one second left, we practiced that in practice, a situational thing that we practice,” Spencer said of the pass. “When (Carlee Schuhmacher) pivoted, I just threw it to her and she jumped and made it, so it worked out for the best.”

N.C. State led 39-36 at halftime behind 14 points from Wilson and 10 from Spencer. Stephanie Watts led the Tar Heels with 16 points at the break to Cherry’s 11. The Wolfpack shot 43.2 percent before intermission to the Tar Heels’ 36.7 percent and won the rebound battle 25-19.

UNC was up 24-13 after the first period as the Wolfpack suffered through an icy shooting spell. Watts had 11 points in the period.

“It was really hard,” Mathurin said of the win. “They’re really athletic, and they were crashing all the time. Some teams, they don’t crash the boards, but (Carolina) would consistently go to get rebounds. We just knew we had to win, so I decided to get out there and get rebounds.”

NOTES: NCSU hosts favored Florida State at 7: 30 p.m. Thursday. ... The Tar Heels’ next game is 7 p.m. Thursday at Virginia, before closing the regular season against Duke . ... The Wolfpack leads the all-time series 53-49.