Wilson scores 23, North Carolina State rolls Auburn 62-48
Posted 4:28 p.m. Friday
Updated 4:30 p.m. Friday
AUSTIN, Texas — The last time North Carolina State made the NCAA Tournament, Dominique Wilson was sitting out on a transfer year and stewed at home while her teammates went to Los Angeles.
Three years later, Wilson is a senior and making the most of her tournament time.
Wilson scored 23 points and Miah Spencer added 13 to help No. 6-seed North Carolina State roll over cold-shooting No. 11 Auburn 62-48 on Friday in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
"I was excited. I found myself more focused because this could be your last game. Win or go home," Wilson said.
The Wolfpack made the 1,200-mile trek to Texas peeved they weren't a higher seed and hosting the first weekend, and quickly took out their frustrations on an Auburn team that struggled to score in the chilly air of a nearly-empty Frank Erwin Center.
The Tigers' high-pressure defense forced a turnover in the first eight seconds but the Wolfpack easily handled it the rest of the way. Despite a cold shooting start by both teams, Spencer's 3-pointer at the buzzer put N.C. State up 21-11 at the end of the first quarter and the Wolfpack cruised from there.
N.C. State (23-8) led by 17 at halftime and pushed it as high 23 by the end of the third quarter.
"It was a scary game to go into knowing they were gonna press you for 40 minutes. We did a pretty good job most of the day," Wolfpack coach Wes Moore said.
Auburn (17-15) came into the tournament after losing nine of its last 12 in the regular season. The Tigers shot just 25 percent and managed just one field goal and four total points in the second quarter. Auburn didn't cut the lead under 20 until a final flurry over the last 3 minutes.
"They have four seniors, and it's very hard to rattle them. They spread us out," Auburn coach Terri Williams-Flournoy said.
North Carolina State leaned heavily on point guard Spencer to handle Auburn's pressure and settle the offense, and her absence with foul trouble early in the second quarter saw the Wolfpack nearly grind to halt in a game where they were in complete control. N.C. State led 30-13 before Spencer sat for the final five minutes of the second quarter and the Wolfpack managed just two more points the rest of the half.
Auburn had a rough start and never got going. Guard Khady Dieng took a shot in the mouth near the basket in the early moments and fell to the floor before having to come out for several minutes. Katie Frerking, the Tigers' leading scorer this season, didn't score while taking just four shots in the first half and finished with nine points, far below her season average of 16.
"We weren't as aggressive as we should have been at times," Frerking said. We weren't rotating like we should. It's tough. When we can't score, we can't always get our press set up like we want to."
PROTECTING THE BALL
Auburn's aggressive defense ranked second national in forced turnovers this season at more than 22 per game. The Tigers struggled to force those early and without transition baskets quickly got left behind.
It was Spencer's job to limit the easy ones for the Tigers.
"Coach said, 'Don't pick up your dribble,'" Spencer said.
N.C. State plays Sunday against host Texas, which beat Central Arkansas 78-50.