PITTSBURGH (AP) — The Atlantic Coast Conference is as unrelenting this season as it ever has been in No. 3 North Carolina State coach Wes Moore's 11 years on the job.
Moore knows the Wolfpack know can ill afford a misstep if they want to be on top. They avoided one in an 83-47 win over rebuilding Pittsburgh on Sunday, bouncing back from a home loss to No. 16 Virginia Tech on Thursday by burying the Panthers during a dominant second quarter that allowed them to pull away.
“We said all season ‘take it one game at a time’ and you can’t let one game set you back,” said center River Baldwin, who had 15 points, seven rebounds and three blocks. “It’s just a mindset.”
The bigger, more athletic Wolfpack (21-3, 9-3 ACC) outrebounded the Panthers 47-38 and outscored them 38-18 in the paint while beating Pitt (7-18, 1-11) for the ninth straight time.
Madison Hayes led N.C. State with 16 points, though the Wolfpack's win came at a potentially high cost. Forward Mimi Collins needed to be helped off the floor early in the third quarter when she got caught in a pile of bodies underneath the Pitt basket.
Collins, who finished with 13 points on 6-for-6 shooting, appeared to be favoring her left leg as she limped to the locker room.
“We’ll do the imaging thing (Monday) and hope and pray it’s something (minor),” Moore said. "It’d be great if ... just rest would work, but if not, something less invasive like maybe a scope or something would be good news I guess. Hopefully we can get her back sooner than later.”
N.C. State shot only 35% from the floor against the Hokies, a game in which Baldwin managed just four points and a single field goal while Collins went 0 for 9.
There were no such issues against the smaller Panthers. N.C. State spread the floor and looked inside for the 6-foot-5 Baldwin, who made 6 of 8 shots while having little trouble getting to the low block.
The Panthers were competitive for most of the first quarter, relying on jumpers by senior Liatu King to stay close. Yet they could muster little outside of whatever King hit, and when the Wolfpack hit the gas, Pitt struggled to keep up.
Aaryn Battle led Pitt with 11 points. Marley Washenitz and Jala Jordan added 10 for the Panthers. King, who came in averaging 19 points and 10 rebounds a game, finished with nine points — her second-lowest total of the season — and 12 boards.
N.C. State shot 13 of 16 (81%) in the second quarter to pull away, making whatever basket it wanted against Pitt's ineffective zone defense. If the Wolfpack weren't making layups in transition, they were dropping it inside Baldwin as N.C. State built a 53-20 lead that the Panthers never came close to threatening.
N.C. State: The Wolfpack, coming off three straight home games against ranked opponents, began a stretch that includes four of five on the road by handling a Pitt team near the bottom of the conference with ease.
Pitt: The Panthers have nowhere to go but up under first-year head coach Tory Verdi. While King has been one of the best (and most unheralded) players in the ACC, there is plenty of work to be done.
N.C. State: Visits No. 12 Notre Dame on Thursday.
Pitt: Travels to North Carolina on Thursday.
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