NC State women can’t hold off Princeton, first-round NCAA Tournament win streak ends

Kaitlin McKeown/

Princeton’s Grace Stone knocked down a 3-pointer with 4.7 seconds remaining that sealed North Carolina State’s fate in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament on Friday night.

Stone’s shot gave the 10th-seeded Tigers a one-point lead and No. 7 N.C. State failed to respond. The Wolfpack lost, 64-63, at the Jon M. Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City, Utah, bringing their season to a close.

It’s the first time since 2014 that N.C. State (20-12) made the tournament but did not get out of the first round, ending a streak of five straight trips to the tournament in which the Wolfpack had won at least one game.

With the Pack playing its sixth straight game without All-ACC guard Diamond Johnson, who has been battling a nagging ankle injury since December, Mimi Collins led N.C. State with 14 points and five rebounds. Madison Hayes and Jakia Brown-Turner each scored 10 points, and ACC Sixth Player of the Year Saniya Rivers provided a stat-stuffing effort of seven points, 11 boards and six assists.

Stone and teammate Kaitlyn Chen scored 22 points apiece to lead the upset-minded Tigers (24-5). Julia Cunningham provided 14 points and Ellie Mitchell grabbed 11 boards.

N.C. State led by eight points with 5:44 remaining after a lay-up from Aziaha James.

The Wolfpack never scored another point.

Princeton ended the game on a 9-0 run. During that stretch, the Wolfpack missed five shots and turned the ball over five times.

The game started out poorly for both the Wolfpack and the Tigers. Neither team scored in the opening three minutes, and then Princeton ripped off a 6-0 run. By the end of the first quarter, N.C. State had just about pulled even, trailing by just a single point after a 12-7 run, during which Hayes tallied five points and a steal.

N.C. State started the second quarter off with a 15-7 run and went into intermission with a six-point lead. Hayes, Brown-Turner and Jada Boyd each scored five points in the period.

Princeton briefly took a four-point lead in the third quarter, but N.C. State grabbed it back and went on to lead by as much as eight points with nearly six minutes remaining in the fourth.

N.C. State shot 49% from the floor in the loss. The Wolfpack were previously 14-0 this season when making at least 44% of their shots from the field.

The Wolfpack also won the rebounding battle by four, and outscored Princeton in bench points, 28-2, and points in the paint, 34-20. What seemed to doom N.C. State was 20 turnovers and four missed free throws.

N.C. State doesn’t carry any players on its roster who have exhausted their eligibility, but after a disappointing end to the season, this Wolfpack team could look different next year.