BC-BKW--NCAA-Maine-NC State,1st Ld-Writethru
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina State hadn’t played in a couple of weeks — and looked like it.
The Wolfpack still were sharp enough to beat Maine again.
Kiara Leslie scored 20 points and N.C. State beat the Black Bears 63-51 on Saturday in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
Freshman Elissa Cunane added 16 points in her first tournament game and Kai Crutchfield had 14 points to help the third-seeded Wolfpack (27-5) in their first game since they lost to Louisville in the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament semifinals March 9.
They shot 46 percent, closed the first half with an 11-0 run that put them up by 17 and spent the second half holding onto it while winning a rare regular-season rematch in the first round. They beat Maine 84-46 on Dec. 15.
“We hadn’t played in two weeks ... and at times offensively, that showed,” coach Wes Moore said. “We made a nice run in the second quarter, and then the second half, for whatever reason, we got a little stagnant out there.”
N.C. State will face sixth-seeded Kentucky (25-7) on Monday in the second round of the Greensboro Regional.
Parise Rossignol scored 19 points with five 3-pointers and Dor Saar added 16 points and four 3s for the 14th-seeded Black Bears (25-8). The two-time America East champions had their 14-game winning streak snapped.
Maine hit 11 3-pointers to hang around well into the fourth quarter, but trailed by double figures for the entire second half.
“We just kept saying, ‘If we can get it within 10, we can make a run,’” coach Amy Vachon said.
Maine: The Black Bears kept things much closer against N.C. State than they did during that 38-point loss, with the shooting of Saar and Rossignol preventing the deficit from growing into the 20s. But Maine couldn’t string together enough buckets to pull within single digits and put even more game pressure on the Wolfpack.
“To come down here in December and really lose by a lot — and could have been a lot worse — and to come today, I knew we had improved a lot,” Vachon said. “We knew what we were facing, but our kids never quit.”
N.C. State: The Wolfpack were never really in danger of their first NCAA Tournament loss in Raleigh since 1983, or their first nonconference loss at Reynolds Coliseum in four years. But as they allowed Maine to hit enough 3s to stick around, they also never really delivered a knockout punch, either.
Perhaps most remarkable is that Maine kept it this close despite getting very little from the America East’s player of the year. Blanca Millan, who averages a team-best 17.6 points, finished with just four points in 37 minutes. She was 2 of 12 from the field and missed all nine 3s she attempted. In the two games against N.C. State, Millan was a combined 4 of 25 overall and missed 18 of her 20 3s.
N.C. State has won at least one game in three straight NCAA Tournaments and improved to 15-2 in tournament games played in Raleigh. ... The Wolfpack did not have any offensive rebounds in the second half. ... N.C. State outscored Maine 32-6 in the paint. ... The only points scored by a nonstarter for either team came on Kayla Jones’ free throws with 2:11 left in the third quarter.
N.C. State: Faces Kentucky on Monday in the second round.
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