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Hoops roundup: No. 2 NC State women pound Pitt

By Aaron Beard

AP Basketball Writer

RALEIGH — Second-ranked North Carolina State rolled in its home finale while looking as comfortable as ever shooting from outside in the familiar Reynolds Coliseum setting.

Wes Moore just needs his Wolfpack to carry that into the postseason, too.

Raina Perez scored 14 points and helped N.C. State hit 16 3-pointers to beat Pittsburgh 83-53 in Thursday’s home finale. The Wolfpack matched the program single-game record for made 3s.

Jakia Brown-Turner also scored 14 points for the Wolfpack (16-2, 11-2 Atlantic Coast Conference), who made 16 of 26 3-pointers. The shots fell from throughout the lineup, too, a reminder of the outside punch for a team that already has a strong paint presence with Elissa Cunane.

“I hope we’re trending up,” Moore said. “Now again, when you shoot 16 out of 26 from 3, everything’s fine. I’m worried about on the day we’re 6 for 26. Are we going to defend well enough and rebound well enough to survive and advance when we get into postseason? That’ll be the real trick.”

Perez led the outside-shooting blitz by making 4 of 5 from behind the arc, helping N.C. State match its mark of 16 made 3s set in December 2014 against Mount St. Mary’s.

Kayla Jones and Kai Crutchfield each hit three 3s, among of the Wolfpack’s eight different players to hit at least one. That included freshman reserve Dontavia Waggoner knocking down her second 3 of the season to close the third quarter and give the Wolfpack a 71-34 lead.

“It keeps the defense on their toes,” Crutchfield said, adding: “Just for us to stay diverse is a big thing for us to keep doing.”

Freshman Sandrine Clesca had a season-high 12 points to lead the Panthers (5-12, 3-11), who missed 15 of 18 shots in the opening quarter to find themselves in an immediate hole. Pitt finished the game shooting 40%, a figure boosted by a 7-for-10 shooting performance in the final quarter with the outcome no longer in doubt.

“They started in the paint and then they have kids that can shoot it,” Pittsburgh coach Lance White said. “You’ve got to pick your poison.”

BIG PICTURE

Pittsburgh: The Panthers had lost seven of eight in the past month, the outlier being an 83-80 win at Boston College on Feb. 16, in a schedule that has included six postponements this season. Pitt was seeking the program’s first win against a top-5 team, but fell behind by double figures midway through the opening quarter while playing without No. 2 scorer Dayshanette Harris (12.4) and Gabbie Green due to recent injuries.

“For us, we looked out there and we had four freshmen on the floor a lot today,” White said. “Those kids obviously aren’t ready for the No. 2 team in the country.”

N.C. State: Moore keeps talking about trying to get this year’s team peaking entering the postseason while describing these final regular-season games as “dress rehearsals.” His team has won four straight and is still alive in the battle with No. 6 Louisville for the No. 1 seed in next week’s ACC Tournament.

“I have liked what we’ve seen the last few games,” Moore said.

TIP-INS

N.C. State blew the game open with a 20-0 stretch during the third quarter. … Pittsburgh has lost six straight meetings and hasn’t beaten the Wolfpack since February 2015. … Five players scored in double figures for the Wolfpack, including Cunane (13 points, eight rebounds) and Jones (10 points, six rebounds and seven assists). … Panthers leading scorer Jayla Everett (14.9) finished with seven points on 2-of-15 shooting.

 

Men’s games:

 

No. 3 Wolverines have no trouble with No. 9 Hawkeyes

 

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Hunter Dickinson gave Luka Garza fits around the basket, and Franz Wagner scored 21 points to lead No. 3 Michigan to a 79-57 victory over No. 9 Iowa on Thursday night.

The Wolverines (17-1, 12-1) passed yet another test against a highly ranked opponent, and they look increasingly alone atop the Big Ten, where every other team has at least four conference losses. Dickinson more than held his own against Garza in a much-anticipated matchup of two standout big men.

Garza led the Hawkeyes (17-7, 11-6) with 16 points, but he shot 6 of 19 from the field. The 7-foot-1 Dickinson, who like Garza went to high school in the Washington area, showed early on he could defend the Iowa star without help inside. Michigan became the first team to hold the Hawkeyes under 65 points all season.

Isaiah Livers scored 16 points for the Wolverines. Dickinson added 14.

No. 1 Gonzaga 89, Santa Clara 75

SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) — Corey Kispert scored 25 points, Drew Timme had 16 of his 18 points in the second half and No. 1 Gonzaga won its 50th straight at home.

The Bulldogs won their 27th straight overall dating to last season, but struggled to shake the Broncos for most of the night.

Timme was a big reason why Gonzaga (23-0, 14-0 West Coast Conference) was finally able to pull away in the second half. Limited to just eight minutes in the first half due to foul trouble, Gonzaga’s primary interior scorer made 7 of 9 shots as the Bulldogs pulled away from a 40-38 halftime lead.

Jalen Suggs nearly had a triple-double finishing with 13 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists, and Joel Ayayi added 11 points for Gonzaga.

Gonzaga’s 50-game home win streak matches the longest in school history. The Bulldogs have also won 20 straight games by double-digits, matching the longest streak ever by a team ranked No. 1 in The Associated Press Top 25. UCLA also won 20 straight by double-digits during the 1971-72 season.

Guglielmo Caruso led Santa Clara (10-7, 4-5) with 19 points, and Giordan Williams added 18.

Gonzaga had trailed for only 50 seconds total in 10 home games going into Thursday’s matchup. The Bulldogs ended up trailing for 11:27 of the first half as the Broncos provided a formidable challenge.

Gonzaga had not trailed in nearly 172 minutes of game time before falling behind in the opening minutes to Santa Clara.

No. 5 Illinois 86, Nebraska 70

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) — Kofi Cockburn scored 24 points, freshman Adam Miller added 18 and the Illini beat the Cornhuskers.

Illinois (17-6, 13-4 Big Ten) played without star Ayo Dosunmu, who broke his nose Tuesday against Michigan State and is expected to miss at least two more games.

Freshman guard Andre Curbelo narrowly missed a triple-double with 10 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists.

It was the most points for Miller since he scored 14 against Ohio State on Jan. 16. Trey McGowens led Nebraska (5-17, 1-14) with 18 points. Kobe Webster and Shamiel Steveson added 12 each for the Cornhuskers.

No. 12 Houston 81,  Western Kentucky  57

HOUSTON (AP) — Quentin Grimes scored a career-high 33 points and had six rebounds to help No. 12 Houston beat Western Kentucky.

Grimes scored 21 points in the first half, including 18 straight at one point. The junior guard finished 11 of 21 from the field, making 8 of 16 on 3-pointers.

Marcus Sasser and Tramon Mark each had 12 points, and DeJon Jarreau had nine points for Houston (19-3). Houston forced the Hilltoppers (15-5) into 20 turnovers, which they turned into 27 points.

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