RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Second-ranked North Carolina State rolled in its home finale while looking as comfortable as ever shooting from outside in the familiar Reynolds Coliseum setting.
Wes Moore just needs his Wolfpack to carry that into the postseason, too.
Raina Perez scored 14 points and helped N.C. State hit 16 3-pointers to beat Pittsburgh 83-53 in Thursday’s home finale. The Wolfpack matched the program single-game record for made 3s.
Jakia Brown-Turner also scored 14 points for the Wolfpack (16-2, 11-2 Atlantic Coast Conference), who made 16 of 26 3-pointers. The shots fell from throughout the lineup, too, a reminder of the outside punch for a team that already has a strong paint presence with Elissa Cunane.
“I hope we’re trending up,” Moore said. “Now again, when you shoot 16 out of 26 from 3, everything’s fine. I’m worried about on the day we’re 6 for 26. Are we going to defend well enough and rebound well enough to survive and advance when we get into postseason? That’ll be the real trick.”
Perez led the outside-shooting blitz by making 4 of 5 from behind the arc, helping N.C. State match its mark of 16 made 3s set in December 2014 against Mount St. Mary’s.
Kayla Jones and Kai Crutchfield each hit three 3s, among of the Wolfpack’s eight different players to hit at least one. That included freshman reserve Dontavia Waggoner knocking down her second 3 of the season to close the third quarter and give the Wolfpack a 71-34 lead.
“It keeps the defense on their toes,” Crutchfield said, adding: “Just for us to stay diverse is a big thing for us to keep doing.”
Freshman Sandrine Clesca had a season-high 12 points to lead the Panthers (5-12, 3-11), who missed 15 of 18 shots in the opening quarter to find themselves in an immediate hole. Pitt finished the game shooting 40%, a figure boosted by a 7-for-10 shooting performance in the final quarter with the outcome no longer in doubt.
“They started in the paint and then they have kids that can shoot it,” Pittsburgh coach Lance White said. “You’ve got to pick your poison.”
Pittsburgh: The Panthers had lost seven of eight in the past month, the outlier being an 83-80 win at Boston College on Feb. 16, in a schedule that has included six postponements this season. Pitt was seeking the program’s first win against a top-5 team, but fell behind by double figures midway through the opening quarter while playing without No. 2 scorer Dayshanette Harris (12.4) and Gabbie Green due to recent injuries.
“For us, we looked out there and we had four freshmen on the floor a lot today,” White said. “Those kids obviously aren’t ready for the No. 2 team in the country.”
N.C. State: Moore keeps talking about trying to get this year’s team peaking entering the postseason while describing these final regular-season games as “dress rehearsals.” His team has won four straight and is still alive in the battle with No. 6 Louisville for the No. 1 seed in next week’s ACC Tournament.
“I have liked what we’ve seen the last few games,” Moore said.
N.C. State blew the game open with a 20-0 stretch during the third quarter. … Pittsburgh has lost six straight meetings and hasn’t beaten the Wolfpack since February 2015. … Five players scored in double figures for the Wolfpack, including Cunane (13 points, eight rebounds) and Jones (10 points, six rebounds and seven assists). … Panthers leading scorer Jayla Everett (14.9) finished with seven points on 2-of-15 shooting.
Pittsburgh: The Panthers close the regular season at Georgia Tech on Sunday.
N.C. State: Syracuse hosts the Wolfpack on Sunday to close the schedule.
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