REYNOLDS COLISEUM/RALEIGH N.C. State opens its season early with a noon game against Southeast Missouri, which has new coach Ty Margenthaler making his debut.

State guard Erica Donovan

Beginning Kellie Harper’s third season at the helm the Wolfpack is looking to improve on a 14-17 mark and get back to the NCAA Tournament.

Today State will go without a couple of key senior players, as forward Bonae Holston (concussion) and center Tia Bell (lower body) will miss the game and are day-to-day.

Harper goes with a three-guard lineup she plans to use for a while, with junior Marissa Kastanek on the floor along with senior Emili Tasler and sophomore Myisha Goodwin-Coleman. Sophomores Kody Burke and Lakeesa Daniel hold down the frontcourt.

State takes a while to escape, but the contest against the Redhawks — who went 8-21 last season — is a major mismatch and the Pack rolls to a 66-29 rout.

The Pack takes a 10-1 lead, courtesy of six points from Kastanek, en route to a 30-16 halftime advantage. And then in the second half it becomes a blowout.

The score is 30-18 before State answers with 16 straight points, five of them from Tasler, and holds the visitors scoreless for a span of 8:58.

Freshman Erica Donovan comes off the bench to score 11 points to Kastanek’s 10, while Kiana Evans has 14 rebounds to go with her eight points in her career debut.

SEMo has no one score more than six points.

State shoots 40.3 percent to the visitors’ 19.6, outrebounds them 56-34 and commits 15 turnovers to the Redhawks’ 24.

They said it …
Harper: “I reminded our players after the game that all wins are good wins. Don’t ever, ever, ever take them for granted. So we’re excited that we’re 1-0, but we definitely have a lot of things to work on and a lot of things to clean up. The motivation will be there in our next few practices to correct some things. We were a little stagnant in the first half, but this early in the season I’m not surprised. I thought we stuck with it defensively. We have some things we need to do in terms of our alertness, but for the most part our kids played hard and had pretty good energy.”

Kastanek: “My mindset at the beginning of the game was just to take things slow and let the game come to me, and just kind of help my teammates get in the flow. Our focus has been in really working on defense. We’re all talented enough to play offense, but we have to keep practicing our (defensive) system with the screens and the cuts and just getting to know each other a lot better with our spacing.”

Tasler: “Just having the kind of freshmen we have coming off the bench is awesome. Mya or Marissa can get a break for a few seconds. When we have people who can come in it’s going to make us better. It feels great to be able to come in and do what I can do to help the team. I’m ready for anything.”

What does it all mean?
That even missing key players, State is currently good enough to wallop a bottom-tier Division I team without breaking much of a sweat.

Stars of the game
1. Kastanek.
2. Donovan.
3. Evans.

Play of the game
Kastanek’s steal and layup to make it 18-12 with 7:11 left in the half.

Up next

SEMo at Saint Louis, Sunday, 2:30 p.m.
State vs. UNC Wilmington, Wednesday, 7 p.m.