RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Kiara Leslie shot her alma mater out of the women’s NCAA Tournament — and sent North Carolina State to its first Sweet 16 since Kay Yow’s inspirational run.
Leslie had 21 points and 11 rebounds against her former team, and N.C. State beat Maryland 74-60 on Sunday in the second round.
Leslie, who spent three seasons at Maryland before graduating and transferring to N.C. State, finished one point shy of a career high while also leading the defensive effort on the Terps’ leading scorer.
“My teammates knew that this game was important to me,” Leslie said. “And I think they helped me get comfortable and get open shots, and they also came ready to play.”
Kalia Ealey and Chelsea Nelson added 12 points apiece while Akela Maize scored 11 to help the fourth-seeded Wolfpack (26-8) earn their first Sweet 16 appearance since their late Hall of Fame coach led them that far in 2007 after returning from a cancer fight.
“I think she’d be proud of this team,” said coach Wes Moore, a former Yow assistant.
N.C. State, which shot 45 percent and was 7 of 14 from 3-point range, will play the Oklahoma State-Mississippi State winner on Friday night in the Kansas City Regional semifinals.
Brianna Fraser had 17 points for the fifth-seeded Terrapins (26-8), who were held to 37 percent shooting.
Leading scorer Kaila Charles was plagued all day by foul trouble and pestered by Leslie. She finished with four points — 14 fewer than her average — on 2-of-8 shooting before fouling out with 2:29 left. She had scored in double figures in 30 of her previous 33 games.
Maryland’s offense, which averages 80 points, had trouble scoring against one of the nation’s stingiest defenses.
N.C. State allows 56.7 points per game and only one team in the past two months — top-seeded Notre Dame — has reached 70 against the Wolfpack.
“I thought their defensive intensity, their pressure, really made us struggle,” coach Brenda Frese said. “They were locked in on Kristen (Confroy) and Eleanna (Christinaki), and did a tremendous job, and off the bounce they made it really difficult for us to penetrate.”
Maryland: The Terrapins were denied their sixth Sweet 16 in seven years in part because their potent perimeter game was completely neutralized by N.C. State’s defense. Maryland, at 39.1 percent the nation’s seventh-most accurate team, missed all five of its 3s. Confroy, who’s third in the nation from long range at 40.3 percent but was hounded all day by Aislinn Konig, couldn’t even get one off and failed to score in her final college game. “I felt like I couldn’t even get a look at a 3-pointer,” Confroy said.
N.C. State: Leslie kept tormenting her former teammates by turning steals into layups. Big brother C.J. Leslie led the N.C. State men’s program to a Sweet 16 in 2012, and now she’s headed to one, too.
Maryland pulled to 45-38 with 2:22 left in the third quarter after Fraser hit a layup. But the immediate technical foul she received for taunting was the turning point. Leslie hit two free throws and Konig followed with a 3 to start the quarter-ending, 11-2 run that put N.C. State up by double figures to stay.
SIGHTS & SOUNDS
This was Maryland’s first visit to Reynolds Coliseum since the Terrapins left the Atlantic Coast Conference for the Big Ten. And with the Wolfpack up 70-56 with roughly a minute left, fans serenaded the Terps with chants of “A-C-C.”
N.C. State will play either top-seeded Mississippi State or ninth-seeded Oklahoma State on Friday night in the Kansas City Regional semifinals.
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