by Mike Potter
REYNOLDS COLISEUM/RALEIGH N.C. State will play its biggest home game so far this season as the Wolfpack hosts Michigan State in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.
The Wolfpack is coming off a 1-2 finish in its tournament in Las Vegas over the weekend, with losses to Florida and Northern Iowa sandwiched around a victory over Arizona State. Kellie Harper’s 5-2 club also has a victory over Auburn.
MSU is allowing only 37.4 points per game and is 5-0 against a weak schedule, with a 57-29 win over Virginia Tech the highlight so far.
But the Spartans’ schedule doesn’t matter, as they never trail in a 68-51 romp that is the Wolfpack’s worst home loss under Harper.
MSU leads 7-0, then 14-2, then 23-5 on an Annalise Pickrel layup with 12:03 left in the first half.
It’s 39-32 at halftime when the Wolfpack finishes a noisy run, closing to 39-38 on a Kody Burke layup with 18:06 to play.
But that ends that, as the Spartans score the next 10 points and coast to the easy win.
Klarissa Bell leads MSU with 21 points, followed by Jasmine Thomas with 16 and Pickrel with 14.
Goodwin-Coleman and Markeisha Gatling score 10 apiece for the Wolfpack.
MSU shoots 43.6 percent from the floor to the Wolfpack’s 34.5, wins the rebound battle 38-34 and commits 11 turnovers to NCSU’s 12.
They said it …
Harper: “I’m disappointed in the way that game went, but to be quite honest with you we just got beat tonight, and we got beat by a better basketball team. They outplayed us in just about every aspect of the game. Give them a lot of credit. We won’t make excuses. We’ve got to correct some things, but (Michigan State) boxes out as well as any team I’ve seen since I’ve been at N.C. State.”
MSU coach Suzy Merchant: “With about six scholarship players and a seventh (Branndais Agee) who has a pin in her foot, I’m pretty proud of our group because of the physical play. N.C. State is so well-coached, and they play so hard and they’re so deep, that I was proud of the way our kids handled themselves.”
Goodwin-Coleman: “We weren’t hitting shots while they were. We were taking tough shots and not making them at all.”
Gatling: “(The Spartans) were very strong in the post. That’s the toughest front line we’ve faced so far.”
What does it all mean?
That the Wolfpack has some improving to do to beat high-level teams consistently.
Stars of the game
Play of the game
Bell’s 3-pointer to make it 54-40 with 10:47 to go.
N.C. State: Lost 2.
Michigan State: Won 6.
MSU leads 2-0.
Michigan State vs. UW-Milwaukee, Saturday, 4 p.m.
N.C. State at Louisiana State, Sunday, 2 p.m.