REYNOLDS COLISEUM/RALEIGH - Kellie Harper will coach her first ACC game as N.C. State women's basketball coach tonight, and it's no easy assignment.
The Wolfpack (10-5) will look for an upset over defending ACC champion Maryland (12-2) in the conference opener for both teams.
It's one of three games involving Triangle Division I women's teams tonight. No. 9 Duke (12-2) will also open ACC play tonight at Clemson (9-7), while N.C. Central (3-11) entertains future MEAC foe Maryland-Eastern Shore (2-6).
N.C. State has a pair of impressive non-conference road wins this season, victories at both Old Dominion and Southern California.
"Fortunately for our staff and for me I treat every game the same," Harper said during a press conference on Wednesday at Reynolds. "Whether we're playing Columbia or Maryland our scouting reports are identical, and our preparation is the same. I think that consistency not only helps our players but I think it helps our staff.
"It helps me, and if there is any anxiety I think it helps alleviate some of that. We try to instill in our players that every game is important. Still everyone looks to the ACC games as the meat of our schedule, as they should. I'm excited about it. Obviously we're opening with an extremely tough opponent, but it's the ACC. You're going to have a tough opponent no matter who it is."
Tonight's game will be the Wolfpack's only regular-season with Maryland this season. Brenda Frese's Terps have won five straight in the series.
"They can score," Wolfpack leading scorer Bonae Holston (11.8) said of the Terps. "Every shot that went up (last year), most likely it was going in. We've got to have lock-down defense and make their shots tougher than we did last year in order to be successful."
Wolfpack senior guard Nikitta Gartrell said energy will be a key for her team tonight.
"We have to come out with a lot of energy in the beginning of the game, and start every game like we started the last two (in wins over Southern Cal and Columbia)," Gartrell said. "In the USC game we ended up winning the game because we had high energy for 40 minutes instead of 20."
The newcomer to all of this is Wolfpack freshman guard Marissa Kastanek.
"With ACC coming up we really need to improve on the turnovers and cherishing every possession like it was the last possession, and rebounding," said Kastanek, who is averaging 10.1 points per game. "I think the biggest thing for me is, every game is a new challenge and I can't dwell on the good games or on the bad games."
Duke will be a solid favorite against Clemson, as the Blue Devils have won 12 straight in the series by an average of 28.8 points. Clemson is on a three-game losing streak.
NCCU has won three of its last five games while UMES is on a two-game losing streak.
N.C. State vs. Maryland
[Thursday, 7 p.m., Reynolds Coliseum]
NCSU leads series 40-33.
Records: Maryland 12-2, NCSU 10-5.
Audio: WKNC-FM 88.1, GoPack.com, UMTerps.com.
Coaches' records - NCSU: Kellie Harper 107-70, 10-5 at NCSU; Maryland: Brenda Frese 245-92, 188-62 at Maryland.
Leading scorers - NCSU: Bonae Holston 11.8; Maryland: Diandra Tchatchouang 14.8.
Leading rebounders - NCSU: Bonae Holston 7.0; Maryland: Tianna Hawkins 8.5.
Assist leaders - NCSU: Amber White 2.9; Maryland: Dara Taylor 5.3.
N.C. Central vs. Maryland-Eastern Shore
[Thursday, 7 p.m., McDougald-McLendon Gym]
UMES leads series 2-0.
Records: UMES 2-6, NCCU 3-11.
Audio: WRJD-AM 1410, NCCUEaglePride.com; UMESHawks.com.
Coaches' records - UMES: Fred Batchelor 133-121, 71-76 at UMES; NCCU: Joli Robinson 200-183.
Leading scorers - UMES: April McBride 16.4; NCCU: Joanna Miller 19.2.
Leading rebounders - UMES: April McBride 8.0; NCCU: Latoya Bennett 5.8.
Assist leaders - UMES: April McBride 2.0; Danielle DeBerry 2.9.
No. 9 Duke vs. Clemson
[Thursday, 7 p.m., Littlejohn Coliseum, Clemson]
Clemson leads series 32-31.
Records: Duke 12-2, Clemson 9-7.
Audio: WDNC-AM 620, GoDuke.com, ClemsonTigers.cstv.com.
Coaches' records - Duke: Joanne P. McCallie 380-166, 64-18 at Duke; Clemson: Cristy McKinney 271-221.
Leading scorers - Duke: Jasmine Thomas 15.8; Clemson: Lele Hardy 14.8.
Leading rebounders - Duke: Krystal Thomas 7.4; Clemson: Lele Hardy 8.5.
Assist leaders - Duke: Jasmine Thomas 5.1; Clemson: Keyrra Gillespie 5.4.