Road-tested Wolfpack eyeing upset over host Texas
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) North Carolina State came to Texas knowing it probably had to beat the host Longhorns on their home court if it expected to go far in this NCAA Tournament.
The Wolfpack got the matchup they expected against the Longhorns on Sunday with a trip to the Sweet Sixteen on the line. It's also one they certainly don't fear.
The sixth-seeded Wolfpack (23-8) are proven road warriors this season with victories at Florida State and Louisville, programs that are first-round tournament hosts. Toss in a big home win against Notre Dame, the No. 1 seed in the Lexington Regional, and this senior-laden lineup believes it can knock off anybody.
''That has prepared us for tomorrow and what's to come,'' senior guard Miah Spencer said Saturday. ''We know we're going to go through adversity. We know we're not going to get the calls we might want. We know that shots might not fall, but we have to stick together.''
N.C. State players felt snubbed when they didn't get to host the first two rounds while five other ACC teams did.
''I feel like we had good quality wins to host, but the committee probably thought differently,'' Spencer said. ''We've beaten great teams on the road. We've been down on the road and come back. Right now we're comfortable with the position that we're in.''
Texas (24-8) earned its No. 3 seed with a resume that included a 19-game win streak that had the Longhorns poised to knock off Baylor in the Big 12. But the Longhorns were better on the road than they were at home late in the season. Late home losses to Baylor and Iowa State cost them the league title. The Iowa State loss was a huge letdown as it came on senior night and spoiled the celebration for the Longhorns' only two seniors, Kelsey Lang and Brianna Taylor
''You work all season to play at home,'' said Texas point guard Brooke McCarty, the Longhorns' leading scorer and the Big 12 player of the year. ''Getting to play here for us is a big thing, just getting the opportunity to play in front of our family and friends.
A few things know ahead of Sunday's matchup between Texas and North Carolina State:
Tucked deep in the box score of Texas' first-round 28-point blowout of Central Arkansas was a troubling stat: 21 turnovers. Many came in a sloppy third quarter when the Longhorns were outscored 23-14 and coach Karen Aston felt her team lost focus and patience in the offense.
''At this time of year, there's such a value that you have to have for the basketball and for possessions,'' Aston said. ''I thought we'd really cleaned up the turnover issue, and then the last couple of games we've played, we've had some uncharacteristic turnovers.''
SIZING UP THE WOLFPACK
Texas was physically dominant in its first round game with huge advantages in height, strength and speed. That won't be the case against the Wolfpack, who have big bodies across the lineup who can challenge the Longhorns for rebounds and blocked shots. Texas outrebounded Central Arkansas 55-23 and dominated scoring in the paint 40-18.
Texas made the Sweet Sixteen in 2015 and the regional final last season. The Wolfpack haven't made it past the first two rounds since 2007.
Moore is the first coach to lead teams to the NCAA Tournament at the Division I, II and III levels. But in 10 previous trips to the Division I tournament, he's never made it past the second round. Moore's deepest run in the postseason came in 1998 when he led Francis Marion University to the Division II regional final. In 15 seasons at Tennessee-Chattanooga, Moore's teams made the tournament nine times but got past the first round just once.
''When you're at a mid-major like UT Chattanooga, you're usually going to be a high seed in that situation and have a tough matchup, usually on the road,'' Moore said.
LONE STAR RETURN
Moore is a Dallas native and several friends and family made the trip to watch the Wolfpack's first game including, a sister who got up at 3:30 a.m. to make the drive to Austin. Moore said he's a Texas Longhorns football fan and was excited to meet with former Texas football coach Mack Brown, who won the 2005 season national championship.
Brown gave the Texas team a pregame pep talk before the Longhorns' first round win over Central Arkansas.
''Did he?'' Moore said. ''Hopefully he used his best speech (Friday) and doesn't have anything left.''