RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina State’s goal was simple: Don’t let Ayoka Lee take over the game.
The Kansas State center entered Friday night’s game against the fifth-ranked Wolfpack as the nation’s second-leading scorer at 29.3 points per game.
“Obviously, we had a lot of focus on her, and we wanted to make someone else the leading scorer,” N.C. State coach Wes Moore said. “I didn’t necessarily mean let the kid hit five 3s, but hey, nice job of focusing in and helping hold Lee.”
Serena Sundell made 5 of 11 3-pointers and scored 21 points for Kansas State, but N.C. State pulled away from the Wildcats for a 90-69 win.
Elissa Cunane had 18 points and six rebounds for the Wolfpack (4-1), while Diamond Johnson added 13 points, seven rebounds and four assists. Raina Perez and Kayla Jones each scored 12 points for the Wolfpack.
Lee finished with 19 points on 9-of-18 shooting and had 11 rebounds for the Wildcats (4-1). The Wolfpack often denied her the ball and forced her into a season-high three turnovers.
“The biggest thing was making her settle for jump shots and not being so close to the basket,” Jones said.
After trailing by two points early in the second quarter, N.C. State built a 10-point advantage by halftime and never trailed in the second half. The Wolfpack pushed their lead to a game-high 23 points in the fourth quarter, outscoring the Wildcats 26-14. Johnson had seven points during that stretch.
Kansas State: The Wildcats found out what happens when an elite defense focuses on Lee, who was held to a season-low 50% shooting. There could be other nights like this when Lee is stifled, and Kansas State will need a better response.
“The key was position. They got (Lee) further away, they really muscled her. And we missed her more than we need to,” Kansas State coach Jeff Mittie said. “I thought she battled all night.”
N.C. State: While Cunane is its lone All-American, other players have stepped up for N.C. State. The Wolfpack have had multiple double-digit scorers in each of the team’s five games, and five different players had led the team in scoring. During N.C. State’s 13-6 run to end the second quarter, five different players scored. Opponents are likely to struggle with that sort of depth.
“We did a good job working inside-out,” Jones said. “We like to feed off each other. I feel like we did it today.”
Kansas State ended the first quarter on an 8-3 run to tie the game at 19-19. It was capped by Jada Moore’s buzzer-beating heave over two defenders from beyond the 3-point arc. It was her only basket of the game.
STAT OF THE NIGHT
Kansas State entered with the eighth-best 3-point defense in the nation, holding teams to 13.8% shooting from behind the arc. But N.C. State shot 10 of 22 (45.5%) from deep. Six different N.C. State players made at least one 3-pointer.
“Certainly, we’ve got to do a better job defensively of maybe blowing some plays up,” Mittie said. “(N.C. State) is a shot-making team, probably one of the top three or four in the country.”
The Wolfpack have won four straight games since opening the season with a loss to No. 1 South Carolina. They should remain in the top five.
Since having offseason knee surgery, N.C. State’s Jones played a season high in minutes with 25. … N.C. State has scored at least 85 points in four straight games, the first time it has done so since Moore took over in 2013.
Kansas State: The Wildcats host Abilene Christian on Tuesday.
N.C. State: On Thanksgiving, the Wolfpack will face No. 3 Maryland in the Bahamas.
More AP women’s college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/womens-college-basketball and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-womens-college-basketball-poll and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25
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