Since arriving in Raleigh together in the summer of 2017, the hometown prospect and the small-school product, Kai Crutchfield and Kayla Jones, have filled the cupboard with milestones.
The N.C. State seniors have won 98 games, 57 at Reynolds and 48 in the ACC. Their lastest win inside Reynolds, 83-53 over Pittsburgh, added one more accomplishment to their already storied careers.
With the blowout win, the Pack went a perfect 11-0 at home, something the seniors had never done.
“That’s huge,” Jones said. “It’s a huge honor to protect our house.”
Raina Perez, a graduate transfer from Cal State Fullerton, will take advantage of the NCAA’s zero year due to the pandemic and return to N.C. State next season, Wes Moore told the media last week. If Crutchfield and Jones played their final game in Reynolds, Perez sent them off properly.
The Goodyear, Arizona, native scored 14 in the win and was on fire from 3-point range. She connected on her first four 3-point attempts before missing one from deep, becoming the fourth N.C. State player to hit at least four 3-pointers in a game this season.
As a team, the Wolfpack connected on 16 three-pointers, tying a school record.
Perez was one of five players in double figures.
“Seems like when you’re shooting the ball well you have energy on the other end of the floor,” Moore said. “We were able to play a lot of people, and we were clicking and hitting shots. A good win.”
The three seniors combined for 35 of the 83 State points. It was the 14th time this season Jones (10) scored in double figures and the fifth for Crutchfield (11). Elissa Cunane finished with 13 and Jakia Brown-Turner added 14, ending her two-game streak of 20-point games. But she has scored in double figures in 17 of 18 games this year.
Jones said the emotions hit her before the game even started, with her teammates surprising her and Crutchfield in the locker room before the game with gifts.
“The four years here have been bittersweet,” Crutchfield said. “Me and K.J. (Jones) have grown together, and I wouldn’t take it back for anything.”
Jones started slow, but Crutchfield was part of the three-point barrage early, knocking down her first triple to cap a 15-0 N.C. State run in the first quarter.
“Before I got to the gym I was already crying in my room this morning,” Jones said. “I was emotional; I was just happy today.”
Neither Jones or Crutchfield have made a decision on if they will return for an extra year. Their focus is still on winning a second straight ACC title. The duo has done so much and come so far in four years, capping it off with an undefeated record at home and two Sweet 16 appearances under their belts, they realize the job isn’t done.
“I’m really not focused on that right now,” Jones said. “We have goals here as a team and really my focus is on winning, taking it one game at a time. We know we have to stay focused as a team and continue to be aggressive.”
The Wolfpack led 41-26 at the half, despite Pitt closing the scoring gap. The Pack narrowly outscored the Panthers 19-16 and still had the 15-point advantage. That’s what shooting 83.3% from 3 in one quarter will get you. N.C. State cooled down from 3 in the second quarter (50%), but went into the locker room at the half having knocked down nine triples in the first 16 minutes.
That was a sign of things to come as eight different players knocked down at least one 3-pointer.
N.C. State has now won six games in a row over the Panthers. The Wolfpack closes out the regular season on Sunday at Syracuse.