By MITCHELL NORTHAM Associated Press

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Aziaha James scored 28 points to help No. 3 North Carolina State outlast No. 15 Louisville 77-67 in front of a sellout crowd on Monday night.
James shot 10-of-18 from the floor and had seven rebounds for the Wolfpack (20-2, 8-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) in their fifth straight win. N.C. State was also boosted by 12 points and 10 rebounds from Madison Hayes and 10 points from River Baldwin.
“The first half was a whole lot more fun,” N.C. State coach Wes Moore said. “Obviously it helps when you’re knocking down shots. But we were also getting out in transition, getting to the rim or kicking and knocking down 3s. So, that was good.”
Olivia Cochran powered the Cardinals (19-4, 8-2) with 17 points and 12 rebounds. Kiki Jefferson added 16 points and Jayda Curry chipped in 12.
After trailing by four points early on, N.C. State ended the first quarter with a six-point advantage after an 18-8 run. The stretch was kickstarted by back-to-back 3-pointers from James, who scored 16 points in the opening frame.
“I saw the bucket getting bigger and bigger every possession,” James said. “So, just attacking, attacking, attacking. I knew they were fouling, so getting to the free-throw line was helping us as well.”
That momentum carried into the second quarter, which the Wolfpack opened with a 19-4 run punctuated by a steal and short jumper from Zoe Brooks that gave N.C. State a 21-point lead, its largest of the day. Louisville trimmed the deficit to six points in the fourth quarter, but never got any closer.
“We can play with anybody, but there’s a mindset to it. There’s a toughness to it,” Louisville coach Jeff Walz said. “You have to play for 40 minutes. I told them, that’s what my concern is. … And you can’t get emotional when you miss a shot.”
Players from both teams wore uniforms featuring pink in celebration of N.C. State’s “Play4Kay Game” which aims to honor former Wolfpack coach Kay Yow and everyone who has battled cancer.
Louisville: Games between the Cardinals and Wolfpack are typically tightly contested. In their last 16 meetings, this was the 12th decided by 10 points or less. But N.C. State’s smothering defense prevented Louisville making it any closer. The Cardinals shot 36.8% from the floor, their worst mark in ACC play this season. Louisville also had a season-low seven assists.
N.C. State: The Wolfpack are establishing themselves as one of the elite teams in women’s college basketball this season and are continuing to boost their NCAA Tournament resume. The victory improved N.C. State’s record against AP Top 25 ranked opponents to 5-1, with their lone loss coming at Virginia Tech without starting center Baldwin, who missed that game with a foot injury.
This was the second consecutive game against a ranked opponent for both Louisville and N.C. State. Each will play a third on Thursday, and Louisville will play a fourth on Sunday against No. 23 Syracuse.
The ACC had five teams ranked in Monday’s poll — tied for the second-most among conferences — and a sixth team, North Carolina, was just on the outside with 27th-most received votes.
“This was a stretch here where you have an opportunity to make a statement,” Moore said. “This stretch is kind of like what you would see in an NCAA Tournament, trying to go to a Final Four. You’re going to have to go through at least three really, really good teams to get there.”
The ACC also had nine teams in the top 45 of the NCAA’s NET rankings entering Monday, the most of any conference.
Louisville: No. 12 Notre Dame visits the Cardinals on Thursday.
N.C. State: The Wolfpack host No. 16 Virginia Tech on Thursday.