A Coach’s First Season: The First Televised Game

December 12, 2009
By Cherry Crayton

Sunday update at 5 p.m.: At halftime, NC State coach Kellie Harper told the Wolfpack sports radio network that her players would not leave South Carolina happy if they didn’t begin to out-rebound the Gamecocks. The Wolfpack didn’t, and they fell to South Carolina 74-71 Sunday afternoon in Columbia, S.C., despite getting career highs in points from guards Nikitta Gartrell and Emili Tasler.

Gartrell, a senior, led NC State with 23 points; and Tasler, a redshirt sophomore, made 3 3-pointers and finished with 11 points.  Other Pack players in double figures were redshirt junior Amber White with 13 points and Bonae Holston, who had 10 points and 10 rebounds.

But South Carolina scored 28 points off of NC State’s 22 turnovers, and the Gamecocks out-rebounded the Pack 45-39, including 21 offensive rebounds.

Harper told the Wolfpack sports radio network that the turnovers and the boards were the difference in a game that had 14 lead changes and 9 ties. Her post-game comments are after the jump. For a game recap and box score, go to GoPack.

Coach Harper’s Post-game comments, via the Wolfpack sports radio network

On her initial thoughts of the game
Some of the things we knew we needed to do, we didn’t do tonight. The first thing that stands out is our play on the boards. They were just so much more physical than us tonight, and I hate that because we knew that was a key to the game. Also, we knew that a key was unforced turnovers, and we had 22 turnovers and that’s entirely too many. We needed more possessions. Obviously, we shoot 53 times to their 71. And those two things, the lack of the boards and giving them boards and then our turnovers, gave them that many more possessions. And I don’t care who you are, that’s tough to come back from if you only shoot 53 times to your opponents’ 71. . . . We did not shoot our free throws as well as we normally do. We missed some there that I thought were critical. But it was a little sporadic. Again, that’s where if we’re more physical, we handle that better.

On the play of NC State senior guard Nikitta Gartrell
With Nikitta, we’ve been getting on her about getting all the way to the basket and not just pull up and shooting jumpers. And she did that. She did what we were trying to do and what we wanted to do and that was attach the glass in the second half.

On key turnovers
Well, we put ourselves in some tough positions. We got trapped a few times, and we didn’t handle it well. It looked like we had never been trapped before. Nikitta goes in there and plays so hard and gets an offensive board, and if she just takes a dribble and powers it up, maybe she doesn’t walk. But it doesn’t come down to one possession; it’s all those things added up to cause the lost.

On the play of South Carolina’s junior guard Samone Kennedy
She killed us. I thought she was the difference in the game. We knew that Valerie Nainima was going to get her points. She’s good; we had a hard time guarding her and I didn’t understand [that]. We were late finding her several times, and that was something we worked on in practice. But Kennedy, we knew she was a good percentage 3-point shooter. We weren’t keying in on her for obvious reasons once you see Nainima. But [Kennedy] made a couple of big buckets, and then we had a breakdown on a bucket she made, too. She hit them when they had to have them.

On what she’ll tell the team in the locker room after the game
They need to prepare to box-out in the practice. They need to realize that that’s where we lost the game. That and turnovers. And the things we needed to do well—the things that are written on the board—we did not do well tonight and that’s frustrating as a coach.

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The Wolfpack women’s basketball team will meet South Carolina at 2 p.m. Sunday in Columbia, S.C., marking the first time that NC State will play in a televised game in Kellie Harper’s first season as its head coach. (Game notes here.) Assistant coach Stephanie McCormick gave us a preview of NC State’s game plan against the Lady Gamecocks:

It should be a good game. They’ve got a big post [6-foot-5 Kelsey Bone]. She’s a freshman, a high school All American and huge. That will be a challenge for us defensively — matching up against her. They have a guard that shoots the light out [5-foot-5 junior Valerie Nainima], which we haven’t proven that we can handle too well early on. Our game plan will revolve around keeping [Bone and Nainima]  under control and not letting some of the other kids –the role players around them — do more than they normally do and not letting them explode. I think if we come out offensively [and move the ball and set screens], with the way they defend, we should be OK. I just found out a couple of days ago the game will be televised. It’s not something we talk about with the team. Even without the TV exposure, we put enough pressure on ourselves and on the games. We need to win.

Debbie Antonelli (Photo courtesy of Debbie Antonelli)

Debbie Antonelli (Photo courtesy of Debbie Antonelli)

Providing color commentary for the game, which airs on Fox Sports South, will be Debbie Mulligan Antonelli ’86. A Cary native and a three-year starter at NC State, Antonelli played under Kay Yow from 1982 to 1986. Over the past two decades, she has become one of the most prominent authorities on women’s basketball in the nation. She calls games for the Big 12, ACC and SEC, among others; has been the radio analyst for the CBS/NCAA Radio Network for the past 13 Women’s Final Fours; and co-hosts  with Beth Mowins a weekly 30-minute podcast, “Shootaround with Beth & Debbie,” that focuses on women’s collegiate basketball. She’s also a member of the Kay Yow/WBCA Cancer Fund’s board of directors.

Antonelli took the time to speak to NC State magazine by phone Thursday.

We’ll post an extended interview with her on Jan. 3 (the day she’ll call the NC State-Florida men’s basketball game for Fox) that focuses on her career. But we wanted to go ahead and pass along  what she says about calling her first NC State women’s basketball game since Coach Harper took the helm:

First of all, Kellie Harper is a fine young coach and is going to be very good. This particular team, because it’s the same team from last year minus Shayla Fields [who graduated], are very special and very unique, and they deserve to have a chance to play without such a heavy heart. I’m pulling for them, not just because of the story but because [former players and members of the Wolfpack family] are an extension of Coach Yow. That is the only way. There’s no other way. I think Coach Yow would expect all of us to embrace these kids and the coaching staff and try to continue to fulfill the same mission about what she desired for all the kids — that is for them to graduate and for them to believe in themselves and to be the best people and best players that they can be. She always put people first, and she always told us to pay it forward, not pay back. And I think that Kellie has the same philosophies.

The first time I go into Reynolds and Coach Yow is not there, that will be a difficult thing. But we all have to go through that; I haven’t experienced that yet, so I’m not sure how I’ll handle it. But because of my job and my profession, I will handle it the best way I can. I have been on the air for many emotional moments with her. I’ve interviewed her and it’s been very difficult to do those things. But I know that she is counting on me and many others to do the right thing. She’s always expected that, and it’s not any different now.

Regarding her predictions for how NC State will fare in the ACC this season, Antonelli tells us:

Before they even played a game, on the ACC preview show that we did on Fox, I picked NC State as the surprise team in the ACC because they are athletic and talented. We were not sure what kind of system that Kellie wants to run and what she wants to do, but I think she has enough talent and those kids have a tremendous amount of competitive spirit about them. When you take that combination, you’re going to find that good things will happen. Now, will it result in wins all the time? Maybe not, but I still believe that they are going to be playing at a very high level for most of the year. They have a little more depth and a little more experience than some other teams in the conference.

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