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Aziaha James stars as NC State beats Chattanooga 64-45 in NCAA women's tourney

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Aziaha James scored each of her 19 points in the second half, and North Carolina State pulled away from Chattanooga for a 64-45 victory in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Saturday.

Saniya Rivers scored 16 points and River Baldwin had 10 points and 11 rebounds, boosting N.C. State coach Wes Moore to a victory against his former team.

Next up for No. 3 seed N.C. State (28-6) is ex-Wolfpack coach Kellie Harper and sixth-seeded Tennessee (20-12) on Monday. The Lady Vols advanced with a 92-63 victory over Green Bay.

The winner goes to the Sweet 16 in Portland, Oregon.

“I think we’ve got a pretty good chemistry, and they like each other,” Moore said. “And that’s a good start.”

Jada Guinn scored 13 points for Chattanooga (28-5), which had lost only once previously in 2024. Raven Thompson added 11 points.

The Mocs fell to 1-17 in NCAA Tournament play, with the lone victory coming when Moore was coaching the team. He coached 15 seasons at Chattanooga before leaving for the N.C. State job following the 2012-13 season.

“Usually we shoot the ball better than that,” Chattanooga guard Sigrun Olafsdottir said. “I think their length did affect us a little bit, but it was just we weren’t hitting shots.”

Chattanooga, which shot 33% from the field, had scored at least 49 points in every game this season. The Mocs were held to single-digit totals in each of the first three quarters.

“I feel like our defense is getting better as well,” James said.

The Mocs had made 45% of their shots this season entering the game.

“We just had to be a little bit better offensively to get some runs ourselves going,” coach Shawn Poppie said. “We could never put a handful of possessions together to push ourself forward.”

Moore said he understood why Chattanooga struggled offensively.

“It’s hard to shoot your normal percentages and all when the defense is a little longer and a little more athletic,” he said.

James was 0 for 4 from the field in the first half, but she drained five 3-pointers in the second half.

“So not letting that get to me, just keeping my head up high and just keep going,” James said. “And, yeah, it did well for me in the second half.”

A 12-0 run in the third quarter stretched N.C. State’s advantage to 41-20.

Both teams shot below 31% from the floor in the first half, when they combined to go 3 for 24 on 3-pointers.

“We knew we had a size advantage and sending three to boards like we usually try to do,” Baldwin said. “As long as we crashed, we knew we had a size advantage so that would benefit us.”

OFFICIAL CHANGE

Referee Angelica Suffren, who worked the earlier Green Bay-Tennessee game, was on the court for the second half of N.C. State's victory. She replaced Tommi Paris.

The NCAA issued a postgame statement, after an inquiry from The Associated Press, that said “it was learned after the game had started that Umpire 2 Tommi Paris had a background conflict that, if known, would prevent her from working that assigned game.”

Danielle Jackson was listed as the game’s standby official, but she wasn’t used. Suffren was summoned to complete the game “because it provided the most on-court experience and allowed the game to maintain a full officiating crew, plus standby,” the NCAA statement said.

Suffren assessed a fourth-quarter technical foul to Poppie with the Mocs trailing 50-28.

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AP March Madness bracket: https://apnews.com/hub/ncaa-mens-bracket and coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/march-madness