RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Kiara Leslie has ensured that Grace Hunter’s injury won’t keep No. 8 North Carolina State from building on the best start in school history.
Leslie led the Wolfpack with 16 points, five assists and three steals in a 63-34 win over Pittsburgh on Thursday night. N.C. State (16-0, 3-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) is the lone remaining undefeated team in the country after getting 31 points and 13-for-15 shooting from Leslie on Sunday in the team’s first game after Hunter suffered a season-ending knee injury.
Hunter was leading the team in scoring when she was hurt last week in a win over Duke. N.C. State coach Wes Moore said Leslie has improved her patience after sometimes playing out of control early in the season.
“I’m pleased as anything to see her making good decisions, knowing when to attack, knowing when to bounce it out and be patient,” Moore said. “So that’s important, but obviously (so is) knocking down some shots and providing some scoring after losing what we did with Grace.”
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Pitt (9-7, 0-2) was led by Kauai Bradley, who scored eight points. The Panthers shot just 22.2 percent from the field and missed 10 of their first 11 3-point attempts.
“They’ve got a great defensive basketball team,” Pittsburgh coach Lance White said, “and we just don’t have the firepower that it takes to be able to be competitive with that type of defense.”
Leslie scored 14 points in the first half as N.C. State’s guards took advantage of the defensive attention Pitt paid to the Wolfpack post players. Leslie made a pair of 3-pointers, and fellow guards Aislinn Konig and Kai Crutchfield each scored all of their nine points on 3-pointers. DD Rogers added 10 points and eight rebounds for the Wolfpack.
“When any teammate goes down, everybody has to step up,” Leslie said. “And I just happen to be scoring a little bit more. My teammates are doing a great job getting me the ball in the right spots, and I’ve been able to hit the shot.”
No. 2 Louisville was the only other undefeated team left in the country, but it lost to top-ranked Notre Dame on Thursday.
Pittsburgh: After opening ACC play with consecutive losses on the road to top-10 opponents N.C. State and Notre Dame, the Panthers get to play four in a row at home. They have shot below 27 percent from the field in their last two games.
“We’ve just got to keep growing and get better,” White said.
N.C. State: The Wolfpack are cruising, having won by at least 11 points in 14 of 16 games. Playing good defense without fouling has been a staple for N.C. State, which entered Thursday’s game ranked fourth in the nation in fewest fouls per game and didn’t commit a foul in the first 11 minutes.
“Unfortunately, they don’t give out any trophies in January,” Moore said. “What people remember is how you finish.”
N.C. State held Pittsburgh to 7-for-40 (17.5 percent) shooting through the first three quarters after the Wolfpack entered the game ranked ninth in the nation in field goal percentage defense (33.4 percent).
N.C. State’s injury troubles were compounded when senior guard Armani Hawkins was helped off the floor with a knee injury in the second half. She will have tests Friday to determine the severity of the injury. … Pittsburgh hasn’t won an ACC game since Feb. 1, 2018. … The Wolfpack never trailed and have trailed for just 6 minutes, 18 seconds over three ACC games.
Pittsburgh: Plays host to Boston College on Sunday.
N.C. State: Visits Virginia on Sunday.
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