by Mike Potter
REYNOLDS COLISEUM/RALEIGH First-year N.C. State women's basketball coach Kellie Harper is looking to get her team back on the right track tonight.
The former Western Carolina coach, who led Tennessee to three NCAA titles as a point guard, didn't like her team's effort in Saturday's 72-65 loss to Vermont in the championship game of the Sheraton Raleigh Wolfpack Invitational and wants to see a much better effort against Florida Atlantic.
It's the third of four straight home games to start the season for the Wolfpack, and a chance to get some much-needed momentum.
Both teams are 1-1, but the Wolfpack will be a solid favorite against the Owls, members of the Sun Belt Conference.
And for some reason State gets off to another slow start in what turns out to be a comfortable 84-70 win that was the 99th victory of Harper's career.
Brittany Bowe, their 5-7 senior guard, is leading the Owls early, as they lead for most of the first half.
The advantage goes to 25-19 on a 3-pointer from Andrea Taylor with 8:07 left in the first stanza.
And then the Wolfpack kicks things up a notch and wakes up the small crowd in the venerable old house.
Freshman Marissa Kastanek, who had a forgettable night against Vermont, is showing why Harper has started her in every game so far. And she hits a 3-pointer with 5:31 left in the half to put her team up 26-25.
State never trails again, as the lead is up to 42-31 at the break after a 57.7 percent shooting half by the home team.
The second half is never close. The Wolfpack's biggest lead is 59-36 with 14:52 to go on a three-pointer from Brittany Strachan, and the Owls' closest approach after that point is the final score.
Amber White (pictured), who sat out all last season with an Achilles tendon injury, leads the way with a career-high 25 points. The new kid Kastanek adds a season-high 20, while Strachan ties her career highs with 13 points and seven rebounds.
Bowe leads the Owls with 22 points.
They said it ...
Harper: "I'm very glad we won. We will not take these for granted. We still need to improve on some things and I think we will. We improved from Saturday's game to tonight, and we had some individuals step up and do some really good things tonight. That's something to build on. We came out with better energy and had a better understanding of what we wanted to do on the court. We're starting to learn each other a little better and knowing what each person does well."
White: "Really I didn't come into this program looking to be a scorer. I have some very great shooters and very great post players I want to get the ball to. If the offense finds me, it's a great thing. I'm just trying to do what Coach Kellie says and really get people like Brittany and Marissa involved and keep everybody rolling. I knew I had to come out and be a lot more aggressive tonight."
Kastanek: "I know I'm not going to have a perfect game every time. Like Coach Kellie said, if we you play hard you're going to make mistakes. This level from high school is so much faster, and I just need to really work on when I get the ball to still settle down a little bit and see where I need to go with the ball instead of just going crazy. On Saturday it wasn't as much (shot) selection as that my form was off. Coach Jon Harper (Kellie's husband) helped me in practice just to get my feet set and be aware of where I am on the court. Watching film, I was three feet behind the 3-point line."
What does it all mean?
That the Wolfpack is learning how to overcome a little adversity, bouncing back after both a loss and a rough start to win going away.
Stars of the game
Play of the game
Kastanek's 3-pointer for the only lead change of the game.
NCSU leads 3-0.
NCSU: Won 1.
FAU: Lost 2.
N.C. State vs. Davidson, Friday, 7 p.m.
FAU at Eastern Kentucky, Saturday, 2 p.m.