Kiara Leslie lifts No. 9 NC State over North Carolina 74-69
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) — Kiara Leslie and No. 9 North Carolina State survived a frantic fourth quarter to get payback against their biggest rival.
Leslie scored 21 points and made the go-ahead jumper with 37.7 seconds remaining to help the Wolfpack beat North Carolina 74-69 on Sunday.
Leslie’s shot from the right elbow snapped a 68-68 tie. The Wolfpack (24-3, 11-3 Atlantic Coast Conference) held on after losing an 11-point lead in the second half.
“It wasn’t our greatest day offensively, but we just hung in there and found a way to win,” N.C. State coach Wes Moore said. “I’m really proud of them.”
Kayla Jones scored 10 of her 14 points in the fourth quarter, making four free throws in the final 13.7 seconds, for N.C. State.
Elissa Cunane added 12 points and Aislinn Konig had 10 points for the Wolfpack, who avenged a 64-51 loss to North Carolina on Feb. 3. That was N.C. State’s first loss of the season after a 21-0 start.
“I know our fans are into the rivalry and all that,” Moore said. “And I am, too, to a certain extent. But to me, every game is important. It’s more important that we show up consistently.”
Paris Kea scored a season-high 32 points on 11-of-17 shooting in her final home game for North Carolina (17-12, 8-7).
Shayla Bennett added 18 points, and Janelle Bailey had 10 points and 11 rebounds for the Tar Heels.
North Carolina rallied from a 48-37 deficit to take a 52-50 lead early in the fourth quarter.
The final period featured five ties and six lead changes as the teams combined for 53 points.
N.C. State: The Wolfpack picked up an important victory during a stretch in which they are playing five ranked opponents in the final seven games of the regular season. N.C. State, which has won two straight games since getting blown out by No. 5 Notre Dame 95-72 on Monday, still has two Top 15 foes remaining.
North Carolina: The Tar Heels missed an opportunity to solidify their position for an at-large NCAA Tournament berth. They were hurt by the absence of third-leading scorer Stephanie Watts (15.2 points per game), who missed her second consecutive game with a knee injury. “If we can get healthy and have everybody and have the five who have been starting out there . we can play with pretty much anybody,” North Carolina coach Sylvia Hatchell said. “That’s the biggest thing.”
Jones entered the game averaging 4.1 points per game on 21.8 percent shooting from 3-point range. She had attempted only 10 free throws all year, making five of them. But she hit two 3-pointers in the fourth quarter, both of which turned a Wolfpack deficit into a lead, and made all six of her free throws in the game.
“It was just confidence,” Jones said. “I knew we needed it, so I just let it fly.”
Kea, North Carolina’s lone senior, played one of her best games. She erupted for 20 points in the second half, including 15 in the fourth quarter. When it was over, she walked over to her family for a brief visit before heading to the locker room.
“Today was kind of emotional,” Kea said. “UNC has been great, and it’s not over yet. We still have some important games coming up.”
HE SAID IT
“I think I’ll probably drive over here for graduation and cheer and shake her hand. I’ll be glad to see her leaving, because she’s given us fits.” — Moore on Kea.
Both teams wore uniforms and shoes with pink as a prominent color as part of North Carolina’s annual Play4Kay game to support the Kay Yow Cancer Fund. Yow, a Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame member, was head coach at N.C. State from 1975 until she died of cancer in 2009.
N.C. State plays at No. 4 Louisville on Thursday night.
North Carolina gets a week off before wrapping up its regular season at Duke on March 3.