2 NC women’s teams remain in NCAAs

North Carolina State’s River Baldwin (1) sheds a tear as she walks off the court with teammate Mimi Collins, right, after defeating Tennessee in the second-round of the NCAA Tournament. (Ben McKeown/AP Photo)

After the opening weekend in the highly anticipated women’s NCAA Tournament, two North Carolina teams are still dancing.

NC State and Duke both secured a spot in the Sweet 16 after winning their respective round of 32 games. All three teams, the other being North Carolina, advanced to the second round, but the Tar Heels’ season ended Sunday.

From judging each team’s performances, it’s safe to say that one team impressed, the other survived and the last one disappointed. Here’s a recap of how the N.C. women’s teams did over the weekend and where they’ll be headed for the next round:

NC State

No. 3 seed NC State punched its ticket to the Sweet 16 after defeating No. 14 seed Chattanooga, 64-45, in the first round and No. 6 seed Tennessee, 79-72, in the second round.

Other than a rough shooting performance, the Wolfpack had little problems with the Mocs, holding them to under 10 points in the first three quarters of the game. Three NC State players, Aziaha James, Saniya Rivers and River Baldwin, scored double-digit figures despite the team shooting at a 33% clip.

However, stretches of poor offensive production coupled with the inability to get stops troubled the Wolfpack against the Volunteers. After a back and forth shootout in the first quarter, NC State exploded to a 49-31 lead at halftime and looked to be in complete control of the game.

A flat third quarter, in which NC State shot just under 24% from the floor and gave up 19 points, quickly changed all of that. Going into the fourth quarter, the Vols were only down eight, and on the back of a 33-point performance from Rickea Jackson, Tennessee cut the deficit to two with just over four minutes left. With the help of some crucial defensive stops and a couple of huge buckets from James, the Wolfpack survived the upset.

They’ll see No. 2 seed Stanford at the Moda Center in Portland, Oregon Friday. NC State will have to win the battle in the paint as Stanford forwards Kiki Iriafen and Cameron Brink are both averaging over 17 points per game.


No. 7 seed Duke is letting its defense do the talking so far in its tournament run.

After beating No. 10 seed Richmond, 72-61, in the first round and No. 2 seed Ohio State, 75-63, in the Buckeyes’ house, the Blue Devils are the lowest seed in this year’s Sweet 16.

Duke had arguably the most impressive win of the weekend by holding Ohio State, which scores 79 points per game, to just 63 points and an abysmal 9.1% three-point shooting clip. Ohio State guard Celeste Taylor, who played at Duke for two seasons, struggled heavily, making only three shots and fouling out with just over six minutes left in the game.

Junior guard Reigan Richardson is looking sharp for the Blue Devils as she has averaged 26.5 points per game so far in the tournament. She scored 10 points in the fourth quarter to go along with a steal to help Duke close out the Buckeyes Sunday.

Duke will face No. 3 seed UConn at the Moda Center in Portland Saturday. UConn is playing some of its best basketball of the season with star Paige Bueckers leading the Huskies on another deep tournament run. Going up against a team averaging 80 points per game, Duke’s best attribute will be its best friend, but another stellar performance from Richardson and the Blue Devils’ offense will help even more.

North Carolina

No. 8 seed North Carolina came into the postseason with a short-handed roster, missing some key players in its backcourt, but the Tar Heels still managed to win a tournament game.

Behind a 17-point performance from Maria Gakdeng, UNC grinded out a 59-56 win over No. 9 seed Michigan State in the first round.

But, against No. 1 seed South Carolina two days later, the Tar Heels fell completely flat in an 88-41 defeat. The Gamecocks were flat out better than UNC in every aspect of the game, including shooting, rebounding and defense. South Carolina dominated UNC down low, scoring 38 points in the paint to the Tar Heels’ 19 and scoring 21 second chance points to UNC’s five.

The disappointing part was that UNC’s stars, Deja Kelly and Alyssa Ustby, were virtually non-factors, combining for six made field goals on 29 attempts. As a team, UNC shot 23.8% from the floor the entire game.