REYNOLDS COLISEUM/RALEIGH N.C. State opens its women’s basketball season for real with an unusual start time, as the team plays the opening game of the Sheraton Raleigh Wolfpack Invitational at noon against The College of Charleston.
But the program uses it for a noisy “Education Day” contest, with about 1,000 youngsters from Johnston county bused in for some academic lessons and basketball.
The Wolfpack is beginning its second season under Coach Kellie Harper, who led the squad to 20 wins, a spot in the ACC Tournament final and an NCAA bid last time.
The College of Charleston, which like everyone else in the field is playing its opener, is coming off an impressive 22-win season that ended in a long run in the inaugural Women’s Basketball Invitational before some graduation losses that were heavier than the Wolfpack’s.
NCSU takes advantage, never trailing after the first two minutes and rolling to a 73-36 blowout win. The Wolfpack will go for the championship on Saturday against Creighton, which holds off Liberty 40-35.
The first half is much more competitive than the second, as the Wolfpack is up only 35-22 at the break behind 14 points from Bonae Holston and 12 from Marissa Kastanek. But State takes a tough blow in the first half, as forward Tia Bell apparently re-injures the ailing left knee that kept her out of the stretch run last season.
State puts it away in the second half with a couple of runs, scoring seven straight to make it 50-27 on Amber White’s three-point play with 12:04 to go and then 10 straight to make it 64-32 on a Brittany Strachan layup with 3:36 remaining.
Holston finishes with 20 points and 13 rebounds while Kastanek chips in 16 and eight.
Tonia Gerty paces the Cougars with eight points.
State shoots 32.3 percent from the floor while holding the visitors to 20.3 and wins the rebound battle 63-43. The Wolfpack commits 22 turnovers to 26 for Charleston.
They said it …
NCSU coach Kellie Harper: “I think Bonae and Marissa both worked hard. I don’t have an issue with our work ethic. The kids worked hard until they got a little winded, but their effort was good. I felt they had first-game jitters and have been a little bit uptight. But I think they’re over that now and they’ll play better when they’re loose. I think our shooting percentage was affected because of that. This group wants to be good and they want it right now. I was pleased with our defense. I thought we made them play a little bit faster than they wanted to play, and we took them out of some good shots. We had at times really good ball pressure and at times we had good help and at times we had good rotation.”
Holston: “I was comfortable. I just try to do everything I possibly can and be aggressive.”
Kastanek: “I think any team in their first game can expect to have some sloppy moments. It actually counts this time and so nerves play into that. The pace of everything kind of got into some people’s heads. But we can play our offense and we can play our defense. We can do everything that Coach Kellie wants us to do, and that was a positive. We’re going to be a pretty good team.”
Myisha Goodwin-Coleman: “It was exciting. It was fun. I’m still trying to get into the transition from high school to college. I guess the intensity and the fast pace, pushing the ball are different. We (freshmen) are adjusting pretty well as a whole.”
What does it all mean?
That the Wolfpack is definitely off on the right foot, and that the Cougars need to work on finding more efficient ways to score.
Stars of the game
Play of the game
Kastanek’s 3-pointer with 5:01 left in the first half to make it 24-11.
College of Charleston vs. Liberty, Saturday, 6 p.m.
NCSU vs. Creighton, Saturday, 8 p.m.