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Women's college basketball: UNC, N.C. State dancing into Sweet 16

 The Tar Heels celebrate their NCAA Tournament win over Arizona on March 21, 2022 in Tucson.
Photo by Jeffrey A. Camarati
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UNC Athletics
The Tar Heels celebrate their NCAA Tournament win over Arizona on March 21, 2022 in Tucson.

The Tar Heels are coming home, and the Wolfpack is heading north.

After wins on Monday night, the women’s basketball teams at UNC-Chapel Hill and N.C. State are advancing to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament. It’s the first time since 2007 that the Tar Heels and Wolfpack have both advanced to the tournament’s second weekend in the same season.

Seeded No. 1 in the Bridgeport Region, N.C. State hosted first and second round games at Reynolds Coliseum in Raleigh this past weekend and handily beat both No. 16 Longwood and No. 9 Kansas State. Meanwhile, the fifth-seeded Tar Heels played in Tucson, Arizona, where they topped No. 12 Stephen F. Austin and No. 4 Arizona.

With the way the bracket shakes out, N.C. State moves onto regional play in Bridgeport, Connecticut, while UNC is expected to attract a big crowd at the regional in Greensboro.

N.C. State and UNC are among the four Atlantic Coast Conference teams advancing to the Sweet 16, tied with the Big Ten for the conference with the most teams left in the field. According to NCAA.com, there are no perfect brackets left in the women’s tournament.

Here’s how UNC and N.C. State won this past weekend, and what lies ahead for them.

N.C. State

North Carolina State guard Raina Perez drives next to South Carolina guard Destanni Henderson (3) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020, in Columbia, S.C. N.C. State won 54-46.
Sean Rayford
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AP
Raina Perez plays against South Carolina in 2020.

  • First Win: The Wolfpack captured their program-record 30th win of the season on Saturday when it beat Longwood 96-68. N.C. State ended the second quarter on a 19-0 run to take a comfortable lead. Raina Perez missed just one shot in the victory and finished with 16 points. Jakia Brown-Turner added 15 points, seven rebounds and two assists.
  • Second Win: In what was billed as a battle between two All-American centers – 6-foot-5 Elissa Cunane and 6-foot-6 Ayoka Lee – other players shined as the Wolfpack bested the Wildcats 89-57 on Monday. Kayla Jones had 18 points, five rebounds and three assists for N.C. State in just 22 minutes of play. Camille Hobby relieved Cunane – who got in early foul trouble – and scored eight points while forcing Lee into four turnovers.
  • Fun Fact: N.C. State will play in its fourth consecutive Sweet 16 for the first time in program history. The Wolfpack’s win over Kansas State was the final time seniors Perez, Jones, Cunane and Kai Crutchfield will play in Reynolds Coliseum, and a sellout crowd – N.C. State’s 10th of the season – was there to see them off.
  • They Said It: “Sometimes, women's sports don't get the same respect as men’s… We've seen in the past when women's games are on TV, people watch them. So, more games need to be on TV; not ESPN-Plus, but ESPN. Have us on there and give us a chance to perform and show that we're great. We're some of the best athletes that there are – that there can be.” – Camille Hobby
  • Up Next: The Wolfpack will get a rematch with fellow ACC team No. 5 Notre Dame on Saturday at 11:30 a.m. EST in Bridgeport, Connecticut.

North Carolina

 North Carolina Tar Heels head coach Courtney Banghart watches from the sidelines as her Tar Heels host N.C. State on Jan. 30, 2022 in Carmichael Arena.
Mitchell Northam
/
WUNC
North Carolina Tar Heels head coach Courtney Banghart watches from the sidelines as her Tar Heels host N.C. State on Jan. 30, 2022 in Carmichael Arena.

  • First Win: The Tar Heels won their first NCAA Tournament game since 2015 with a 79-66 triumph over Stephen F. Austin on Saturday. Deja Kelly powered the Heels with 28 points, five rebounds and four assists, while Carlie Littlefield added 13 points and nine rebounds. It was Courtney Banghart’s first postseason win as UNC’s head coach.
  • Second Win: With a smothering defense, UNC upset host and No. 4 Arizona with a 63-45 victory. Arizona shot 28.8% from the floor, its second worst mark of the season. North Carolina native Kennedy Todd-Williams led the Heels with 19 points, seven rebounds and five assists, while Alyssa Utsby notched her 13th double-double of the season with 12 points and 12 rebounds.
  • Fun Fact: North Carolina has the fifth-best defense in the nation, holding opponents to an average field goal percentage of 34.7% this season. The Heels’ win over Arizona was the 13th time this season they held an opponent below 50 points.
  • They Said It: “The environment (in Greensboro) will be great. South Carolina travels as well. Women's basketball is in the best spot it’s ever been in. I've given my life to the women's basketball game. It’s all I've ever done with two Ivy League degrees. A lot of people would question that, including my parents. The game is the healthiest it's ever been, and the crowds will show out for it.” – Courtney Banghart
  • Up Next: The Tar Heels will face No. 1 South Carolina on Friday at 7 p.m. EST at the Greensboro Coliseum.
Mitchell Northam is a Digital Producer for WUNC. His past work has been featured at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, SB Nation, the Orlando Sentinel and the Associated Press. He is a graduate of Salisbury University and is also a voter in the AP Top 25 poll for women's college basketball.
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