PITTSBURGH (AP) — North Carolina State coach Wes Moore might want to save a recording of his halftime speech from Thursday night’s game against Pittsburgh.
No. 8 N.C. State was leading Pittsburgh by eight points at the break, with the Panthers taking advantage of Wolfpack center Elissa Cunane’s foul trouble and the strong play guard Aysia Bugg.
“We talked about before the game, we’ve got to try to limit Bugg’s 3-point shots, we’ve got to get back in transition and we’ve got to win the rebound battle,” Moore said.
“What happens at halftime? Bugg’s got 12 points; hit two 3’s. In transition, they outscored us, and they out-rebounded us.”
Moore’s tactful re-telling of the game’s objectives paid dividends. The Wolfpack (18-1, 7-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) had a 28-2 run around the halftime break and used a lopsided 30-4 scoring advantage in the third period to extend the modest eight-point halftime lead into a rout of Pitt (3-15, 0-7), 88-44 on Thursday night.
“Coach Moore just reminded us that we really needed to step up and change those three things,” Cunane said.
Bugg finished with the 12 points she had at the half, and N.C. State outrebounded Pitt, 28-12 in the second half. Pitt scored just one fast-break point in the final 20 minutes.
After the big third quarter, N.C. State extended the lead in the fourth, outscoring Pitt by 10 points for a 50-14 second-half advantage.
Jakia Brown-Turner finished 5 of 12 from the field for a team-high 13 points. Cunane got off to a hot start, scoring six points in the first five minutes, but was slowed by foul trouble. She finished with 12 points and eight rebounds.
Bugg’s two 3-pointers gave her 100 in her career. She’s a sixth-year senior who returned from an ACL injury in 2017-18 and blood clots in 2018-19.
Freshman point guard Dayshanette Harris led Pitt with 16 points
N.C. State: The Wolfpack have one loss, but have also found different ways to win. They slogged through a defensive battle against Wake Forest on Sunday before blowing out the Panthers on Thursday, setting a season high in margin of victory.
“Being able to sub in a lot in that second half, it gets the whole team involved, so it’s not just the starting five or the first couple off the bench,” Cunane said.
Pitt: With five first-year players getting heavy minutes, the Panthers have taken some lumps this season. The loss to the Wolfpack was their seventh straight to start conference play and 11th consecutive loss overall.
“Having a new team, having so many freshmen, they’re trying to find their confidence,” coach Lance White said. “Now, playing these teams, that’s hard. You’re not going to gain confidence against N.C. State.”
The 44 points against represents N.C. State’s best mark in conference play this season, but things have been trending in that direction. The Wolfpack held Wake Forest to 45 points on Sunday and kept Florida State (51) and Notre Dame (56) under 60 points earlier this month.
“I think the most consistent thing is defense,” Cunane said. “If you have a good foundation of that, then you can win any game. Offense just adds to it.”
NC State: Host in-state rival North Carolina on Sunday. The Tar Heels beat the Wolfpack 66-60 on Jan. 9. North Carolina has not swept the season series between the teams since 2015.
Pitt: At No. 5 Louisville on Sunday. The Panthers have lost 38 straight games against ranked opponents dating to 2015.
More AP women’s basketball: https://apnews.com/Womenscollegebasketball and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25