ORONO — The suspense was missing but not the eagerness.

Because of an ESPN foul-up, the University of Maine already knew its opponent when the Black Bears arrived for the NCAA women’s basketball tournament selection show Monday.

The Black Bears (25-7) earned a 14th seed and will be at North Carolina State (26-5) at 1 p.m. Saturday.

The pairings were supposed to be released during the selection show at 7 p.m. – the Black Bears planned to be watching from a lounge in Alfond Arena. But ESPNU revealed the pairings early Monday afternoon. The NCAA then moved the show to 5 p.m.

“I was taking a nap and my phone was blowing up,” said Maine senior Parise Rossignol. “Coach was telling us we need to get (to Alfond) as soon as we could.

“I called my parents to let them know the show was at 5, and my dad was the one who told me we’re playing N.C. State.”

Senior Tanesha Sutton also had a nap interrupted.

“I found out five minutes before I got here,” she said. “It’s still exciting.”

The matchup represents a couple of firsts for Maine. It’s the first time the Black Bears oppose a team in the NCAAs they faced in the season – an 84-46 blowout by the Wolfpack on Dec. 15 at Raleigh, North Carolina.

And N.C. State is the first opponent Maine previously faced in the NCAAs. The Black Bears played the Wolfpack in the 1998 tournament, losing 89-64. That game was notable because it was the final appearance by All-American Cindy Blodgett. The Black Bears’ point guard that season was sophomore Amy Vachon.

Vachon is now the head coach, directing her team to a second straight NCAA appearance. Last year Maine was a 15th seed and was routed at Texas, 83-54.

“I don’t know if anyone expected to win when we went down there,” Vachon said of the Texas game. “Everything was so new. It was kind of like, ‘We’re here and it’s great.’ I think our team is different this year.

“The expectation (now) is we’re going to win. I don’t know if we will or not, but there’s not an overwhelming feeling we don’t belong.”

Despite the 38-point loss in Raleigh in December?

“It was bad,” Vachon said of that game. “It was one of those they-did-everything-right and we-did-everything-wrong kind of game.

“But part of that has to do with them – they’re a really good team. I think we’ve improved a lot since then so we’re excited to have a second shot at them.”

The Wolfpack shot 57 percent to 27 percent for Maine and outrebounded the Black Bears, 50-26.

“That was a tough part of our schedule, for sure,” Rossignol said. “They didn’t get our best shot.”

That defeat started a four-game losing streak by Maine, which played without 6-foot-1 Fanny Wadling, its one true post player. She averages 6.5 points a game and leads the team with nine rebounds a game.

Since Wadling’s return for America East Conference games, Maine has gone 18-1. The loss was to Hartford, a team the Black Bears defeated twice since then, including 68-48 in the conference title game Friday.

N.C. State, a member of the Atlantic Coast Conference, is No. 10 in the latest AP poll.

Among common opponents, Maine defeated North Carolina, an NCAA tournament team that split two games with the Wolfpack this season. But Maine lost to Duke and Tennessee-Chattanooga, two teams N.C. State beat.

The Black Bears are 1-8 in NCAA tourney games, the one win in 1999 when 10th-seeded Maine topped No. 7 Stanford, 60-58.

The four No. 1 seeds this year are Baylor, Mississippi State, Notre Dame and Louisville. UConn is a No. 2 seed for the first time since 2006.

Kevin Thomas can be reached at 791-6411 or:

[email protected]

Twitter: @KevinThomasPPH

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