by Mike Potter
REYNOLDS COLISEUM/RALEIGH It’s not uncommon for high-level college basketball teams to schedule a “firewall” game in February, an all-but-guaranteed win over a lesser visiting team just in case there’s a need to end a losing streak.
N.C. State’s is tonight.
The Lancers will join three other Western Virginia schools in the Big South next season.
Duke alumna Wanisha Smith is a Longwood assistant coach.
Common wisdom might say the Wolfpack needs six wins to earn an at-large NCAA bid, and State has six games left in the regular season. Two victories would likely assure a WNIT berth.
State will play tonight without leading scorer Marissa Kastanek, who is nursing a foot injury. She’s expected back for the sold-out “Hoops 4 Hope” game against Wake Forest on Sunday.
It doesn’t matter.
State never trails, scoring the first eight points and leading by 21 at halftime en route to a 74-45 victory.
Freshman guard Erica Donovan comes off the bench for 14 points and a season-high seven rebounds to lead the Wolfpack, while Bonae Holston has 13 points in 11 minutes and Kody Burke 10 in 14. All 13 State players who get into the game score.
Durham Hillside alumna Erin Neal leads the Lancers with 15 points, followed by Chelsea Coward with 10.
The Pack shoots 46.9 percent to 36.0 for the visitors, wins the rebound battle by 47-23 on the strength of 23 offensive rebounds, and committed 20 turnovers to the Lancers’ 23.
They said it …
State coach Kellie Harper: “I liked the vibe in the locker room before, during and after the game. We’ve had a long week of practice, meetings, and our players, I feel, have a good focus right now moving forward. They’re hopefully recommitted to what I think we need to do to be successful.”
Donovan: “Knowing that my team was there and having my team pick me up was good. … Being away from home (in Texas) has been tough. And the standards are a lot higher than what they were in high school.”
Burke: “I felt like we did a good job. This was a good game for us to improve our communication. We didn’t really have a scouting report. We had to remind ourselves to play good basketball, and a win’s a win.”
What does it all mean?
That the firewall worked, and the Wolfpack is feeling a little better about life with five games left in the regular season.
Stars of the game
Play of the game
Walk-on Paige Woodard’s 3-pointer from the left corner to make it 69-37 with 4:28 left.
State: Won 1.
Longwood: Lost 4.
State leads 2-0.
State vs. Wake Forest, Sunday, 5 p.m.
Longwood vs. Richmond, Monday, 7 p.m.