by Mike Potter
REYNOLDS COLISEUM/RALEIGH Kellie Harper is quickly into her fourth home game in her short tenure as head coach at N.C. State, and tonight she has an opportunity to reach an early milestone.
The 32-year-old former Western Carolina coach, who comes into the game with a 2-1 record this season, can get her 100th career victory. Not in the realm of the 1,000-plus wins her mentor Pat Summitt has at Tennessee, but how many people have started careers as college or even high school coaches and never gotten to triple figures?
Tonight she'll be facing an old foe, at least for her. Harper was 6-5 in her tenure at WCU against Southern Conference rival Davidson, which oddly hasn't played the Wolfpack since 1976. The Wildcats, under former Wolfpack assistant Annette Watts, are 0-2.
And it's a mismatch from the start, en route to a 79-54 Wolfpack victory.
The Wolfpack leads 3-0, then 10-2, then 41-15 at halftime.
Everything the home team does seems to work pretty well, as State outrebounds the Wildcats 30-11 at the break and shoots 47.1 percent to Davidson's 24.1. Bonae Holston and Tia Bell are already in double figures at the break.
Davidson doesn't just quit, so the margin doesn't get worse in the second half as Harper digs into her bench.
Sophomore Holston finishes with 21 points and 10 rebounds, her first double-double of the season and sixth of her career. Bell adds 15 points, freshman Marissa Kastanek and Brittany Strachan 10.
Alex Thompson, the Asheville native who is the only North Carolinian on the Davidson roster, leads the Wildcats with 16 points while Ashley Lax adds 13.
After the game there isn't a big deal made of the 100th win, although it is eventually mentioned on the P.A. system and the team celebrates with a little dance at midcourt.
They said it ...
Harper: "I'm proud of the win and very proud of how this team started the game, especially defensively. I thought our energy level was very high, something that we have been talking about and that was part of our game plan tonight. 100 wins is a milestone. I'm not sitting in my office calculating my wins, I'm worried about these girls getting wins for the season. But I'm proud of that. You can really put things in perspective when you look at other coaches around the country. I'm in my sixth year, so if I want to get 1,000 I've got to coach 60 more years.
"Especially early in the season, we don't get a chance to watch a lot of film on our opponents because they haven't played many games. For me to already know Davidson and not only their plays but their philosophy, it gave me a great comfort level and allowed me to formulate a game plan quicker than normal."
Bell: "I think we're coming in with a lot of intensity and hard work. The execution will come with it. We're taking it day-by-day and trying to learn the execution part, and I think we're doing a good job of not giving up."
Kastanek: "We're working really hard in practice, and that helps with the bonding situation. Each day we need to work on knowing each other and getting to know where we're going to be on the court. Each day we're getting to know where each player is going to cut."
What does it all mean?
That the Wolfpack had a pretty successful homestand, winning three of four before its first road game.
Stars of the game
Play of the game
Bell's 3-pointer to make it 15-6 with 12:47 left in the first half.
Davidson at William & Mary, Sunday, 2 p.m.
NCSU at Old Dominion, Monday, 7 p.m.