by Mike Potter
REYNOLDS COLISEUM/RALEIGH There’s a very big crowd in the house and plenty of emotion today, as N.C. State hosts its annual “Hoops 4 Hope” game promoting breast cancer awareness and raising money for the Kay Yow Cancer Fund.
Kellie Harper’s club has lost four straight games — although without a “bad loss” in the bunch — and is two games below .500 with 10 certain games remaining.
The Wolfpack leads the series 24-10, but lost 74-71 in Tallahassee last season.
NCSU is 4-1 all-time in the Hoops 4 Hope game.
The Wolfpack is in its traditional pink uniforms for the event while both teams are in metallic pink shoes. Both teams wore T-shirts bearing the word “Love” in pregame warmups, the Wolfpack in white and the Seminoles in black. And a noisy crowd of 6,127 is in the house.
FSU takes a big lead early, then dominates the final three minutes following a Wolfpack comeback and escapes 76-69.
Myisha Goodwin-Coleman gets her first start for the Wolfpack, as Harper elects to begin the game with four guards and Bonae Holston.
The Seminoles can’t seem to miss early on, taking an 8-0 lead on a 3-pointer from Courtney Ward at 17:48 and stretching it to 25-10 on Chelsea Davis’ layup at 11:07.
It’s 31-18 on Olivia Bresnahan’s layup at the 6:15 mark, but the Wolfpack rallies to cut it to 40-33 on Holston’s layup at the buzzer for her 14th point.
FSU shoots 51.7 percent including 6-for-9 from 2-point range in the first half to NCSU’s 34.9. The Wolfpack outrebounds the visitors 23-20 over the period and commits only two turnovers to FSU’s seven.
There are seven ties and six lead changes in the second half, with the Wolfpack taking its largest edge at 52-49 on Kody Burke’s layup at 13:34.
Ample FSU center Cierra Brevard plays just nine minutes in the second half because of her four fouls after the break.
But she gives her team the final go-ahead basket on a layup from Natasha Howard to make it 66-64 with 3:35 to go.
Chasity Clayton leads the Seminoles with 16 points, followed by Bravard with 14 and two players with double-doubles — Howard with 10 points and 12 rebounds and Christian Hunnicutt with 10 points and 11 rebounds.
Holston answers with a career-high 30 points and 10 rebounds, but the other Wolfpack starters are a combined 5-for-29 from the floor. Burke comes off the bench for 13 points and seven rebounds.
FSU shoots 42.9 percent for the game to the Wolfpack’s 35.5. The hosts win the rebound battle 50-45 and commit just 10 turnovers to FSU’s 11.
They said it …
NCSU coach Kellie Harper: “It was an exciting day in Reynolds. We expected exactly what we saw — a great atmosphere, our kids played hard, they played inspired, they played well for a large portion of that game. I’m proud of our kids and for their effort and how they’re fighting. We just have to find a way to finish and that’s the bottom line. … I am pleased about how well we’re playing. I thought we played well. I think we’re improving. They’re giving me everything they’ve got and I want it for them so bad. We’re outmatched physically, we’re outmatched athletically, we’re outmatched depth-wise, I don’t know which one you pick. On paper, how in the world do we play with people?”
FSU coach Sue Semrau: “We knew it was going to be an electric atmosphere. You could feel it an hour before game time, and we told them that if they’re cheering that means you’re not working hard enough. We knew we had to work a little bit harder today. … Our team is our balance. We know we can leave Courtney open and she can knock something down. She comes off the bench and gives us great energy. We recruit complementary players.”
Holston: “The crowd was a big part. You’d make a big play and they’d get so excited to make the next play. They’d give us a burst of energy, so we’d work hard to find a way to score on the next play.”
Bravard: “The first half was frustrating too. But when I lose confidence my whole team is behind me and they’re kind of picking me up and telling me - like, I’d missed five shots in a row and they’re still throwing me the ball. Having people out there that want to go to me and need me, it kind of helps.”
What does it all mean?
That FSU knows how to beat a good, motivated opponent in front of a big, hostile crowd. And that the Wolfpack is playing well, but may need a miracle to finish over .500.
Stars of the game
Play of the game
Bravard’s inside move to make it 71-67 with 1:30 to go.
NCSU leads 24-11.
NCSU: Lost 5.
FSU: Won 4.
NCSU vs. Fairfield, Tuesday, 7 p.m.
FSU vs. UNC, Wednesday, 7 p.m.