by Mike Potter
REYNOLDS COLISEUM/RALEIGH First-year N.C. State coach Kellie Harper coaches her first ACC conference game tonight against Maryland, which has been one of the league's traditional powers and is the defending conference champion.
While the Wolfpack finished its non-conference slate with a 10-5 mark, Brenda Frese's Terps are 12-2 - albeit against a weak schedule.
The Terps will be playing their first conference game since 2006 without All-Americans Kristi Toliver and Marissa Coleman on the roster, so this season is a test to see how well the program is going to sustain its lofty reputation.
And if the conference opener is any indication, it's going to be a very tough test.
The Wolfpack shocks the house and prevails by its biggest victory margin so far this season, 73-45.
State, which breaks a five-game losing streak in the series, comes out as if it were shot out of a cannon and just dominates every facet of the game. The lead is 12-2 early and 41-21 at halftime as the Wolfpack shoots 50 percent for the period and is beating the Terps to just about every loose ball.
Maryland has one decent five-minute stretch in the second half, scoring seven straight to cut it to 49-33 on a Lynetta Kizer layup with 11:42 to go. But there will be no stretch run, as a 19-4 Wolfpack spree ending on a 3-pointer from Marissa Kastanek (pictured) with 3:04 showing makes it 68-37.
Harper, who always addresses the home crowd on the P.A. system win or lose, had a huge smile when she took the mike this time. "Go tell your friends they missed one!" she said.
And indeed they did.
Freshman Kastanek finishes with 19 points and six steals, while senior Nikitta Gartrell has her second career double-double with 16 points and 11 rebounds, 10 on the defensive end. Amber White completes the backcourt domination with eight points.
Maryland gets 10 points each out of Lori Bjork and Diandra Tchatchouang.
State shoots 43.3 percent from the floor to 34.0 for the Terps, wins the rebound battle 41-37 and commits 16 turnovers to the visitors' 25.
They said it ...
NCSU coach Kellie Harper: "I'm very proud of our team. Our kids executed the game plan. We've had a lot of energy in the last few games, but tonight we had focused energy. We looked very confident on both ends of the floor, and my hat's off to these kids. They played well. ... The thing I'm most proud of is not on the stat sheet. Our kids played with so much heart and so much fight and confidence. I'm just thrilled that that is how they played. I have to admit going in at halftime, I was wondering where that team had been in the last few weeks. But I knew we had it in us to play well. We've shown glimpses of being a very good basketball team. We just had not put it together like that."
Maryland coach Brenda Frese: "Obviously N.C. State was incredible tonight. They just played a lot more aggressive, physical. It was just what you expect from your first ACC game, and with our young kids in the locker room we got a taste of what it's going to be like when you go on the road and how hard you've got to be able to compete. Obviously there are a lot of things for us to take from this game to improve and get better."
Gartrell: "I feel great. The seniors and I had a talk before the game, including Amber, because we know it's been five years that N.C. State hasn't beaten Maryland. Going into tonight's game we knew we had to buckle down, play great defense and attack. I couldn't ask for a better game. This was a great win. I don't know what was going through Marissa's head, but she kept her energy up the whole game and it helped all of us."
Kastanek: "We've just been practicing so hard. At first it was a little weird when Kellie said 'Do the little things. Box out." We thought 'We don't really need to box out. We can get the ball. We can jump. But once we start realizing that when we do things Kellie's way and deny that one pass and box out that one girl, the ball just starts coming our way. Tonight we really figured it out. ... I had had a couple games in a row when I didn't perform for my team as well as I should have. And I'm hearing from all the seniors 'We've never beat Maryland, we've never beat Maryland.' I did it for them. I'm a freshman and obviously hadn't beat Maryland either."
What does it all mean?
That the Wolfpack may turn out to be better than anyone expected, and the next couple of weeks are going to tell. And that Maryland is going to have to play a lot better than tonight's game to avoid a long season of payback.
Stars of the game
Play of the game
Kastanek's baseline steal and layup with 5:33 left in the first half to make it 32-14.
NCSU leads 41-33.
NCSU: Won 4.
Maryland: Lost 1.
N.C. State at Boston College, Sunday, 2 p.m.
Maryland at Virginia, Monday, 7:30 p.m.