REYNOLDS COLISEUM/RALEIGH It’s the first time new coach Kellie Harper has trotted her N.C. State women’s basketball team out in front of the public.
There have been, of course, plenty of changes since last season for the Wolfpack. Harper, a three-time NCAA champion as a point guard at Tennessee who went 97-65 in her tenure at Western Carolina, replaced the late Kay Yow in the spring after a search in which athletics director Lee Fowler decided interim coach Stephanie Glance was not going to get the full-time job.
State is missing only one player from last-season’s team, but then-senior go-to guard and leading scorer Shayla Fields was a very important loss.
At 32 Harper – who was known as Kellie Jolly during her playing days with the Lady Vols – is the youngest coach in the ACC. So far looks like she could still get out there and run at practice, which she often does.
Tonight’s exhibition opponent is Division II North Greenville, the connection being that NGU assistant Scott Moore was a volunteer on Harper’s staff at WCU.
It’s not supposed to be much of a contest against the much smaller visitors, and it isn’t. State scores the game’s first 11 points, leads 42-17 at halftime and holds its biggest margin of 87-44 at the final buzzer.
The Wolfpack shoots 45.8 percent from the floor to 23.1 for the Crusaders and wins the rebound battle 62-25. Points in the paint are 46-4.
State gets five players in double figures, as sophomore forward Bonae Holston (pictured) leads the way with 19 points and 11 rebounds.
Tia Bell adds 14 points while Lucy Ellison, Brittany Strachan and Amber White – playing for the first time since the spring of 2008 after sitting out with an Achilles tendon injury – hit 10 each. True freshman guard Marissa Kastanek starts and scores five points with six rebounds.
Emily Tasler comes off the bench for six points after missing two straight seasons with a knee injury. She does suffer a minor ankle injury during the game, but should be OK for the regular-season opener next week.
Karly Stache and Nikki Wood hit nine points each for NGU.
After the game, Harper learns she will be Grand Marshal of Friday’s homecoming parade.
They said it …
NCCU coach Kellie Harper: “It’s good to get that one under the belt. We were really excited and I know the girls were anxious to play someone else. I was pleased with the effort most of the game and I’m really anxious to go and study this on film. … We looked very poised and I was proud of that. … I think I’ve started a true freshman in her first game only once. She (Kastanek) earned that spot in practice. That was a no-brainer.”
Holston: “It was a good opportunity for me to score. We’ve been working out a lot on boxing out – as you can see, I have these bruises from box-out drills. That probably helped me get scoring opportunities. Amber found me a couple of times and my teammates found me open.”
White: “(On getting back into a game) Woo! I was a little surprised the first few times down the court that I had my wind. I tried to be patient and let the offense and defense come to me. It worked out in my favor tonight.”
What does it all mean?
That the Wolfpack looks to be on track for a good start to the season. And the Crusaders got the experience of seeing what it was like to take on a mid-level ACC team.
Stars of the game
1. Bonae Holston, 19 points and 11 rebounds.
2. Tia Bell, 14 points and nine rebounds.
3. Amber White, 10 points and six assists.
Play of the game
Freshman Kastanek’s 3-pointer from the right elbow on the Wolfpack’s first time down the floor.
N.C. State vs. Florida International, Nov. 13, 8 p.m.
North Greenville at USC-Upstate (exhibition), Nov. 13, 7 p.m.