Aziaha James hits 7 3-pointers, leads N.C. State past Texas to Final Four

After Aziaha James scored 10 points in the first quarter, the Wolfpack jumped out to an early 19-14 lead and never looked back. James made a career-high seven 3-pointers and scored 27 points to carry N.C. State to an impressive 76-66 victory over Texas to earn its first trip to the Final Four since 1998. River Baldwin added 16 points for the Wolfpack, who improved to 31-6 on the season.

Madison Booker, one of the top freshmen in the country, scored 17 points to lead the Longhorns, who dropped to 33-5 with the loss. It was a memorable weekend in Portland, with the city hosting the Final Four in 2024. But before the weekend was over, the NCAA admitted there was a discrepancy with the 3-point line. It was confirmed that both teams played with a 3-point line on one end of the court that was almost two feet shorter than the regulation distance. According to the NCAA, both coaches agreed to play on, despite the noticeable difference.

It was a stunning development and resulted in questions after four previous games in Portland were played without anyone saying anything publicly about the issue. The game itself was physical and tense, with the lead changing hands multiple times. The Longhorns closed within 54-48 on Deyona Gaston's jumper late in the third quarter before James answered with a 3-pointer to put the Wolfpack ahead by nine heading into the final period.

Booker's three-point play moved Texas within 63-55, but the Wolfpack's resilience and accuracy from beyond the arc proved too much for the Longhorns. With 28 seconds left, James walked into a timeout with her arms raised to elicit cheers from the fans behind the bench. The Wolfpack's last Elite Eight appearance in 2022 ended with a double-overtime loss to UConn.

N.C. State was stopped by Louisiana Tech in its only previous Final Four appearance in 1998. Texas, meanwhile, won its lone national title in 1986, going 34-0. But it's been 21 years since legendary coach Jody Conradt took the team to its last Final Four. Now, Conradt, who led the Longhorns to that title, will not get to see her team return to the final weekend of the season before she retires at the end of the season. As the Wolfpack prepare for the Final Four, they'll have a week off before they face unbeaten South Carolina in Cleveland on Saturday. The Gamecocks beat Oregon State in Albany, New York, earlier Sunday.

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