RALEIGH, N.C. (AP)Once star point guard Diamond Johnson was hurt, others stepped up for No. 8 North Carolina State.
Johnson scored 14 points before spraining her right ankle in the first half and the short-handed Wolfpack pieced together enough offense combined with tenacious defense to defeat South Florida 65-57.
”We all know each other,” center Camille Hobby said. ”We know what everybody can do. It’s unfortunate, but we’ve got to keep playing.”
Jakia Brown-Turner had 13 points and Hobby added 10 for N.C. State (9-1), which played a home game for the first time in nearly a month.
Johnson departed after making six of 10 shots. She scored 11 of N.C. State’s first 19 points before leaving with four minutes left in the first half with the Wolfpack holding a 27-18 edge.
”You can’t worry about it,” N.C. State coach Wes Moore said. ”I’ve got confidence in everybody on this team. Obviously, Diamond is a talented, special player, but we’ve got a lot of people who can go in and pick up the slack when they have to.”
Johnson returned to the bench late in the third quarter in a walking boot. Reserve guard Saniya Rivers, a sophomore transfer from South Carolina, scored nine points in a career-high 34 minutes.
”We all know that anyone who steps on the court is going to be ready to play,” Brown-Turner said.
The Wolfpack won its fifth in a row.
Elena Tsineke scored 17 points for South Florida (8-3), which faced its fourth consecutive Top 25 opponent. Sammie Puisis added 14 points, Carla Brito had 11 and Dulcy Fanham Mendjiadeu added 10 points and 17 rebounds.
The Bulls were trying to duplicate their most-recent game – a Dec. 2 road win at No. 22 Texas.
”You can’t come up empty on so many trips,” South Florida coach Jose Fernandez said. ”We took (13) more shots attempts than they did.”
N.C. State’s lead dipped to five points early in the third quarter before it was extended to 50-39.
”We got it down to five, six a couple times,” Fernandez said. ”We were just trading baskets. We didn’t get stops.”
The Wolfpack led 34-25 at halftime, with the Bulls managing just eight second-quarter points, including Puisis’ 3 at the buzzer.
South Florida hit three 3s in the first quarter on the way to a 17-11 edge. Johnson posted the game’s next eight points, giving the Wolfpack a lead that wasn’t relinquished.
”She took over, and that’s what’s tough to see her (go) out,” Moore said. ”She definitely makes a difference when she’s out there.”
EIGHT IS ENOUGH
N.C. State had only eight players available by the end of the game.
Senior forward Jada Boyd missed her second game in a row with an ankle injury. She’s averaging 10.9 points per game.
Wolfpack reserves outscored South Florida’s backups by 19-3.
”They’re all on scholarship, so they’ve got to earn it,” Moore said. ”We need them.”
South Florida: The Bulls did a commendable job attacking the offensive boards and that allowed them to stay within striking distance. The Bulls were caught off balance at times by N.C. State’s ability to drive the ball into the lane and find opener shooters from there.
N.C. State: The Wolfpack found another way to win during a rugged part of the schedule. Since beating visiting Charlotte on Nov. 16, the team played five consecutive games away from home, all against opponents from power conferences. That last two of that stretch came with victories in true road games earlier this month at Iowa and Georgia.
Puisis and N.C. State reserve center River Baldwin were Florida State teammates a season ago. . N.C. State won the only previous meeting in the 2021 NCAA Tournament’s second round in San Antonio.
South Florida: Wednesday vs. Marshall
N.C. State: Thursday vs. Davidson
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