A Coach’s First Season: Pack Rally Back

December 6, 2009
By Cherry Crayton

Sunday evening update: Below are photos that sophomore Tim O’Brien, with NC State Student Media, took of the Wolfpack women’s basketball team win over TCU. There are some action shots of the game, bench, and even the mascots.

The NC State women’s basketball team got double digits in points from four players and overcame a slow start and an early 10-point deficit to beat Texas Christian (TCU) 76-62 Sunday afternoon at Reynolds and snap a two-game losing streak. Freshman guard Marissa Kastanek scored a career-high 22 points for the Wolfpack, which improve to 6-3. The other NC State players in double digits were senior Lucy Ellison (15 points), senior Nikitta Gartrell (12 points), and junior Brittany Strachan (10 points). Ellison and Gartrell also led the Pack with 9 rebounds each.

“That’s hands down the best we have executed offensively. The kids understood the game plan and did what we wanted them to do,” first-year coach Kellie Harper said in her post-game radio interview. “This is the best we’ve looked. We didn’t have to win ugly. We were looking good doing it.”

After the jump are more post-game comments from Harper and Kastanek, as well as more information about the game. For a box score and game recap, go to GoPack.com.

The Horned Frogs (5-3) made 11 of 13 shots and got 11 points from Helen Sverrisdottir in the first 10 minutes to build the early 10-point lead. But the Wolfpack switched from a straight-up man-to-man defense to a help man-to-man defense and held Sverrisdottir to just a bucket as they outscored the Horned Frogs 19-8 the rest of the half to lead 36-35 at the break. NC State gradually extended its lead in the second half, leading by as many as 15 points, and maintained a double digit lead for much of the second half.

“I thought we were more alert to [Sverrisdottir] the second half . . . and they missed some shots,” Harper said in her post-game radio interview. “I give credit to our defense; they were playing faster than they wanted to. I was really proud of our defense.”

The win snaps a two-game losing streak for the Wolfpack, which fell to No. 16 Vanderbilt 77-71 overcoming Thanksgiving weekend and to Wisconsin 53-48 Thursday night.

“That Wisconsin game hit home to the players the importance [of rebounding] for our team. If we’re going to be good, we have to be good at it every single game,” Harper said. “I was proud of our kids. We were attacking the glass offensively, and . . . a good shooting team (TCU), when they’re not shooting well, if you can get the rebound, you can stop them.”

The Wolfpack out-rebounded the Horned Frogs 41-28. TCU didn’t get its first rebound until the 11-minute mark in the first half; by the time, NC State already had 9 rebounds. The Horned Frogs also scored only 4 second-chance points off its 12 offensive rebounds. NC State? Twenty-one second-chance points off 17 offensive rebounds.

NC State travels to Columbia, S.C., for a match-up with the Dawn Staley-coached South Carolina Gamecocks at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 13. Their next home game is Saturday, Dec. 19, at p.m., when they host Winthrop.

Post-game Kellie Harper Comments, as told to the Wolfpack sports radio network

Video of some of her comments:

On NC State’s energy
I told our staff that I was going to come in with as [much] energy as possible because they’re feeding off that and need that from me. I’m exhausted now, but I will do it any day I have to get a win.

On the play of NC State freshman Marissa Kastanek
She’s doing such good things for us; she scores, she rebounds, she defends, she plays so hard, she wants to do everything right. She’s a gym rat. She’s in here all the time. She is what I want this program to be about – that heart, that hustle and that desire. She’s a coach’s dream.

On the upcoming schedule
This is going to be an interesting stretch for our kids with final exams coming up. We’ll practice tomorrow and watch some film. I have a lot of good clips to show. Then we’re going to take a couple of days off and make sure our players understand that they’re students first. . . . We’ll pick practice back up on Thursday and try to get ready for our next game.

On the fan support
Right before the game, I told our players, “I want you to stop and look around. These people came to see you play. That should excite you. And when you play like that, and give it everything you’ve got, they will come back. They love that.” I’m glad we were able to play well and play hard, and I think that’s what the crowd wants. It made a difference. . . .

Post-game comments from freshman Marissa Kastanek, as told to the Wolfpack sports radio network

On being a scoring threat as a freshman
It was really important to me, not making the shots, but not fouling. That was my biggest thing—not fouling and not fouling early. Thursday night I was out with 15 minutes left in the first half, and [today] I made it to 4 minutes left in the first half. I’m working on that. And the shots, Emili [Tasler] and I came in last night and just trying to get our focus. The whole day I was focused. Last night I was looking at the scouting report and I was praying the whole time, “God, please just let me come out strong and play for you and let me do this for my team.”

On falling behind early but coming back
[Redshirt junior guard] Amber White always says that basketball is a game of runs. And with any good team, they’re going to have their run. And we knew that if we contain their run, we’ll going to have a run. . . .

On getting into early foul trouble
[Editor’s note: Kastanek played only the first four minutes of the opening half in the Pack’s 53-48 loss to Wisconsin and was held to just 5 points in 22 minutes]
I’ve fouled a lot ever since I’ve played basketball. That’s always been my problem. But the main thing is being smart about it. My fouls right now aren’t very smart. I’m fouling on the other side of half-court where they don’t have a chance to score and where they’re not really a threat to the team. I just need to work on where I foul and when I foul.

On her first semester of college
It was exciting and a little different from high school. [In college,] there are fewer classes but more work. But it was fun and I kept my GPA up.


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