Jakia Brown-Turner scored 19 points and top-seeded North Carolina State shrugged off a challenge from No. 8 South Florida with a big third quarter, advancing to the Sweet 16 of the women’s NCAA Tournament with a 79-67 victory on Tuesday.
Jada Boyd added 18 points and 10 rebounds for the Wolfpack (22-2), who reached their third straight regional semifinal and 14th overall.
CLICK HERE FOR MORE SPORTS COVERAGE ON FOXNEWS.COM
USF (19-4) led by a point early in the third quarter before N.C. State used two big runs to pull away and take a 12-point lead into the fourth.
The Wolfpack held the Bulls to 11 points in the third quarter.
“We did a good job of defending with some urgency and finishing with a box out for the most part in the third,” N.C. State coach Wes Moore said. “It’s good when you can see the ball go through the net — it helps on the other end of the floor. We tend to play better defense when we’re hitting shots.”
The Bulls pulled within eight points with 3 1/2 minutes to go. But the Wolfpack scored the next five points, capped by a 3 from Brown-Turner that made it 73-60 with 90 seconds to go.
The game was played at the Alamodome in front of a handful of people, including NCAA President Mark Emmert, who has been on the defensive since players took to social media to point out inequities in the NCAA’s treatment of women’s teams.
Elena Tsineke had 22 points to lead the Bulls, who were in the tournament for the seventh time. They made six 3-pointers in the first half to spark hope of an upset, but hit just three more after halftime.
“This has been a tough year for all student-athletes,” USF coach Jose Fernandez said. “So for us to have the year we had, winning a regular-season title, conference championship, being 20 minutes away from the Sweet 16, I’m proud to be their coach.”
N.C. State overcame the absence of Kayla Jones, who injured her left knee on Sunday, and an off day by star center Elissa Cunane, who went 3 for 15 from the field. Cunane was 6 of 7 at the free-throw line and finished with 12 points and 11 rebounds as all five Wolfpack starters scored in double figures.
“That’s what makes us great, we don’t just have one player, we have multiple who can score,” Brown-Turner said.
The Wolfpack used a 10-2 spurt, with four points from Boyd, to take a 47-40 lead midway through the third quarter. USF got within two before N.C. State erupted for a 12-0 run that made it 59-45 late in the quarter.
The Wolfpack took advantage of three turnovers in that stretch and Fernandez received a technical foul to help them add to the lead.
CLICK HERE TO GET THE FOX NEWS APP
The Wolfpack will face fourth-seeded Indiana or 12th-seeded Belmont.
Moore said Jones has a patellar tendon injury and she’s listed as day to day.
“We really missed her,” he said. “I don’t know when she might be back. A lot of it is going to depend on the pain and how intense it is.”
Cunane was nearly unstoppable during an MVP performance in the ACC Tournament, scoring 70 points in three games. But the junior hasn’t been the same in the NCAAs.
Moore said Cunane has battled through near-constant double teams and physical defense.
“We’ll keep going to her because I’ve got a lot of confidence,” he said. “I think Darrell Royal, the old Texas football coach, used to say: ‘I’m going to dance with the one that brung me.’ So we’re going to keep dancing with Elissa, that’s for sure.”