RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Saniya Rivers stayed on the attack all Sunday. Her North Carolina State teammates followed her lead to a stunning takedown of No. 2 Connecticut.
Rivers had a career-best 33 points to go with 10 rebounds and dominant overall floor game to help the Wolfpack beat the Huskies 92-81, earning the program’s first win against the Huskies in more than a quarter-century.
Rivers, a rangy 6-foot-1 guard in her second year after transferring from South Carolina, had the size to shoot over defenders, operate as a playmaker and attack the basket. She finished with five assists, three blocks and three steals in 38 minutes as UConn Hall of Famer Geno Auriemma called her “by far the most dominant player on the floor today.”
“I just knew I had to show up today for my teammates,” Rivers said. “Whether it was scoring, on the defensive end, giving assists to my teammates, it didn’t matter.”
Aziaha James added 18 points for the Wolfpack (2-0), hitting the corner 3-pointer that started an 11-0 burst early in the fourth quarter to stretch out a 14-point lead and take control.
The game was a rematch of an NCAA Elite Eight matchup from 2022, with the Huskies (1-1) beating the Wolfpack in double overtime backed by a home crowd despite N.C. State being a No. 1 regional seed. That, along with Auriemma’s program long being one of the standards of the sport, drew a boisterous and often ear-ringing sellout to Reynolds Coliseum.
Wolfpack coach Wes Moore said the 2022 game “”will haunt me forever.” On Sunday, at least, he could savor watching his players mobbing each other at midcourt once the horn sounded.
Preseason Associated Press All-American Paige Bueckers scored 27 points for for UConn, while Aaliyah Edwards added 21. But the Wolfpack shot 56.8% after the first and dominated the glass for the game (41-29).
“I think getting rebounds is just an attitude, and we’ve got a (expletive) attitude toward rebounding, because it’s hard work,” Auriemma said. “It’s hard work, and everybody’s got to be engaged in it.”
UConn: The Huskies opened by cracking the 100-point mark against Dayton while Bueckers got her first action since the 2022 NCAA title loss to South Carolina after missing last year with a knee injury. She had eight points in that one and looked more like herself in leading the offense here.
“I’m still getting my conditioning and game rhythm back, getting playing under my belt,” Bueckers said. “But I feel fine, great physically. Just got to be better.”
N.C. State: James had a career-best 26 points in the opener against Charlotte, and Rivers’ eruption showed the Wolfpack’s reworked roster has a quality 1-2 punch potential. McDonald’s All-American Zoe Brooks also showed her potential with 12 points.
Not bad for a team picked to finish eighth in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
BEEN A WHILE
UConn had won six straight meetings since N.C. State’s last win: a 1998 regional final sending late Hall of Famer Kay Yow to what stands as the program’s lone Final Four.
It was the first top-5 win for N.C. State as an unranked team since December 2016. And it marked the most points allowed by UConn in game ending in regulation since then-No. 3 Tennessee scored 92 in February 2001, according to ESPN Stats & Info.
UConn: The Huskies host No. 14 Maryland on Thursday.
N.C. State: Elon visits the Wolfpack on Wednesday.
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