REYNOLDS COLISEUM/RALEIGH N.C. State will hold its annual Senior Night, and while there’s only one player to be honored she’s going to be a very hard one to replace.

State guard Marissa Kastanek

Guard Marissa Kastanek, the academic All-American from Nebraska who was once the conference’s rookie of the year, will play her last regular-season contest in the classic old building.

It’s a huge game for both teams’ post-season chances. State (13-15, 5-11) has run out of room for error if it’s hoping for at least a return to the WNIT. And Virginia (15-12, 7-9), coached by Duke alumna Joanne Boyle, has some work to do if it’s hoping to get back into the NCAA bracketology. Virginia had won the first meeting 78-59 on Jan. 13 in Charlottesville.

State will again have the services of junior guard Myisha Goodwin-Coleman, who served a one-game team disciplinary suspension for Sunday’s contest at UNC.

This time it all goes according to the mega-happy script for the Wolfpack, as Kastanek eclipses the 1,600 point barrier in an 80-59 romp.

Kastanek scores State’s first six points on a pair of 3-pointers after Virginia’s only lead at 2-0. And center Markeisha Gatling takes over for a while, scoring 12 of the Wolfpack’s first 20 points.

The Wolfpack leads 43-33 at the break, shooting 52.8 percent to the Wahoos’ 44.1, leading the rebound battle 21-15 and committing three turnovers to Virginia’s two.

Virginia cuts the lead to 47-43 on a China Crosby layup with 14:48 to go.

But Kastanek answers with a 3-pointer at 13:39, starting a 13-0 run that establishes control for good. State’s biggest lead is the final score, following a 3-pointer with 37 seconds left from Kastanek’s late replacement Breezy Williams.

Gatling finishes with a career-high 21 points, followed by Burke with 16 points and 11 rebounds for her sixth double-double of the season.

Kastanek and Goodwin-Coleman each finish with 14 points.

Ataira Franklin leads Virginia with 23 points while Telia McCall adds 12.

State shoots 50.8 per cent to Virginia’s 39.0, wins the rebound battle 38-30 and commits 11 turnovers to 12 for the visitors.

They said it …
N.C. State coach Kellie Harper: “When you have a Senior Night, you want your seniors to be able to go out on a high note. And obviously with our ability to execute and defend tonight Marissa Kastanek gets to go out with a win. I’m really proud of our team. I thought our offensive execution was stellar in the first half. … It’s amazing when (Gatling) plays like that. The thing to be about watching Keisha today is that she looked like she transferred her drills to the game. In practice the poor guys who are trying to defend her can’t.”

Kastanek: “It (making it a special night for her) worked. It was pretty emotional. We were in the office the other day and I was talking about — ‘I’m going to cry,’ and they said ‘No, you can’t cry. It’s a basketball game.’ And I said they were right. I’ve been sitting around visualizing myself not crying. But it’s happy. It wasn’t my last game. We won. It’s awesome. It’s cool.”

Gatling: “There was nothing to it. I just played hard. I think Marissa’s senior night had a little to do with it. But I knew I could do it. … I knew I had to be aggressive. Coach said (Virginia) was going to be aggressive and I knew I had to be.”

Burke: “If you’re aggressive, eventually things will go your way. And I knocked my shot down, and that was good.”

What does it all mean?

That the Wolfpack has a chance for a .500 season heading into the tournament with a win at Clemson on Saturday.

Stars of the game
1. Gatling.
2. Kastanek.
3. Burke.

Play of the game
Kastanek’s 3-pointer with 13:39 to go to start the 13-0 run.

State: Won 1.
Virginia: Lost 5.

Virginia leads 38-32.

Up next
Virginia vs. Florida State, Sunday, 1 p.m.
N.C. State at Clemson, Sunday, 2 p.m.