Saniya Rivers had a career-best 33 points to go with 10 rebounds and five assists to help North Carolina State stun second-ranked Connecticut 92-81 on Sunday, earning the program’s first win against the Huskies in more than a quarter-century.
Aziaha James added 18 points for the Wolfpack (2-0), who ran off an 11-0 burst early in the fourth quarter to suddenly stretch out a double-digit margin in what had otherwise been a tense tussle.
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 Geno Auriemma’s program long being one of the standards of the sport, drew a boisterous and often ear-ringing sellout to Reynolds Coliseum.
By the end, though, fans were savoring and counting down the final seconds before the Wolfpack players began mobbing each other at midcourt once the horn sounded.
Preseason Associated Press All-American Paige Bueckers scored 27 points for UConn, while Aaliyah Edwards added 21.
But on this day, the star was Rivers, a rangy 6-foot-1 guard in her second year after transferring from South Carolina. She had the size to get off her shot above defenders, the ability to operate as a playmaker and attack the basket.
With Rivers rolling, N.C. State shot 52.5% for the game while dominating the glass (41-29).
The Huskies opened the season by cracking the 100-point mark against Dayton while Bueckers settled in for her first action since the 2022 NCAA title loss to South Carolina after missing last year with a knee injury. After scoring eight points in that one, she looked more like herself in having to lead the offense here — though defense and rebounding was more of a problem for UConn on this day.
The Wolfpack beat Charlotte by 41 points to open the season, led by James’ career-best 26 points and a quality debut for McDonald’s All-American Zoe Brooks. Brooks proved ready for the moment, too, on Sunday with 12 points.
UConn had won six straight meetings since N.C. State’s last win: a 1998 regional final that sent late Hall of Famer Kay Yow’s Wolfpack to what stands as the program’s lone Final Four appearance.
It was also the first top-five win for N.C. State as an unranked team since December 2016.
The Huskies host No. 14 Maryland on Thursday, and Elon visits the Wolfpack on Wednesday.
Reporting by The Associated Press.
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