Aziaha James leads NC State to the Final Four against undefeated South Carolina.

Aziaha James leads NC State to the Final Four against undefeated South Carolina.

Portland, Oregon — Caitlin, JuJu, Paige, and Angel are among the most famous women's NCAA Tournament players. After North Carolina State guard Aziaha James helped the Wolfpack reach the Final Four, “Zaza” should be added. “As y'all saw this weekend, she is that girl,” River Baldwin remarked.  

James, nicknamed Zaza by her teammates, scored 29 points, 25 in the second half, in the third-seeded Wolfpack's 77-67 Sweet 16 win over Stanford and 27 in a 76-66 Elite Eight win over Texas.  

N.C. State (31-6) will play undefeated South Carolina (36-0) on Saturday in the national semifinals in Cleveland. James was a freshman as the Wolfpack tried to reach the Final Four after a long drought two years ago. They lost against UConn in double-overtime.  

People didn’t know my name my freshman year, but you know my name now,” James laughed after defeating Texas. James took a timeout late in the game and raised her arms to get the Wolfpack fans behind the bench up. Zaza shined as brightly as Iowa's Caitlin Clark, USC's JuJu Watkins, UConn's Paige Bueckers, and LSU's Angel Reese.  

The Portland Regional court issue overshadowed her powerful performance. Texas coach Vic Schaefer met with NCAA officials and N.C. State coach Wes Moore before the game. They soon realized they were talking about mismatched 3-point lines on each side of the court. Schaefer later estimated the difference as “about a foot.”  

The game continued, with both coaches deciding it probably didn't matter. James, who made seven of her nine shots from beyond the arcs, didn't care. She drew logo cheers for a 3 against Stanford. Without Zaza in my ears, I don't know what I'd do. Our teammate Saniya Rivers stated we embrace at least three times a game.

James wasn't born when N.C. State last reached the Final Four in 1998. Louisiana Tech stopped N.C. State's closest national title bid. James is a 5-foot-9 Virginia junior who has improved this season. To lead the squad, she averages 16.4 points, up 9.6 points from last year. “I’ve seen a lot of growth in Zaza since the beginning of the year, she’s really stepped up as a leader,” Baldwin added. “We feed off her energy.”  

“She worked so hard over the summer,” he remarked. “She might hang her head if a shot didn't go in or if I got on her. But she's a woman now. She overcomes challenges and returns.” North Carolina State was picked to finish eighth in the ACC before the season, so James and the Wolfpack have much to prove as they advance in the tournament.  

“It feels amazing,” James added. Many doubted us, and we didn't care what the media said. It didn't matter what others said. We always played on the court and proved ourselves.”  

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