Kayla Jones’ status still uncertain for Sweet 16 game

NC State's top-seeded women's basketball team will play No. 4 Indiana on Saturday at 6 p.m. in San Antonio, Tex.

NC State's Kayla Jones drives against NC A&T's Sean Kelly-Darks during last week's first round NCAA women's basketball tournament game (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)

As the NC State women’s basketball team prepares for Saturday’s NCAA Sweet 16 matchup against Indiana, it’s still uncertain whether senior forward Kayla Jones will be available for the Wolfpack.

Jones, who averages 11.9 points and 7.1 rebounds per game, injured her left knee during the first half of State’s opening round victory against NC A&T last Sunday and missed Tuesday’s second round win against South Florida.

Her availability is considered day-to-day, according to State coach Wes Moore.

“We’re just gonna have to see how she feels on game day,” Moore said during a Zoom conference on Thursday. “I know the doctors and her will have to figure all that out, where she’s at. 

“I think a lot of it has to do with her being able to tolerate the pain and discomfort, but the doctors are also going to make sure that there is no risk involved and that it can’t do any damage. Really I’m just leaving that up to the medical staff. We’ll find out. It may be Friday night or Saturday before we know.”

The top-seeded Wolfpack (22-2) were able to win and advance without Jones against the Bulls, thanks to a standout performance from ACC Sixth Person of the Year Jada Boyd, who scored 18 points and pulled down 10 rebounds in her first start since January 24.

In addition to all five starters scoring in double figures, State also got significant contributions from deep reserves Genesis Bryant and Elle Sutphin.

But with the stakes getting higher and the competition getting tougher, the Wolfpack’s chances against the fourth-seeded Hoosiers will be greatly enhanced with a healthy Jones in the lineup.

“We’d definitely love to have her out there — a senior, first-team All-ACC (selection),” Moore said of Jones, whose injury is to her patella tendon. “I’ve said all year that she’s our glue. She holds us together. I’m proud of Jada Boyd and how she played and how the team stepped up without her, but we’d definitely love to have her back.”

Even though Jones was unavailable for the USF game, teammate Jakia Brown-Turner said that the team leader was still able to make a contribution.

“We just knew she was there for us the whole time, talking to us and just telling us what she saw out on the court from the bench,” Brown-Turner said. “So she helped us a lot, cheering for us and telling us things that we could do towards winning the game.”

Tipoff for Saturday’s game at San Antonio’s Alamodome is 6 p.m. with television coverage on ESPN2.