Below is an edited transcript of Kellie Harper’s comments following the Wolfpack women’s basketball games against Florida International on Friday, Nov. 13, in the opening game of the 2009-2010 season. NC State won 87-71.
On initial and general reactions to the first game
I think I just had my first great Reynolds atmosphere experience at NC State. That was an exciting basketball game. It was a lot of fun. I’m proud of our kids. I think they gave us a lot of energy when we needed it, and they kept pouring it on. It was a total team effort. A lot of people did some things for us. I’m just very happy right now. . . . I think if a fan came to this game and didn’t enjoy it, they’re not basketball fans. That was fun and exciting. I think our team needs to play high energy to be successful, and I think were able to do that for 36 minutes tonight.
It really wasn’t any different than any other game for me as far as how I was feeling. I was very focused on our opponent and what our team needed to do to be successful. Now, during the game, I got a little fired up a few times. I think the atmosphere here added to that emotion.
There is some relief to get this over with. Everybody has been looking forward to this game for months now. A lot of people came out to see what it going to look like. And there has been a lot of talk about this game. One of the things I want to do this season is that I want people to come here because of the players and get excited about our players. And I felt that in the past few weeks, it’s been a lot about me and my first game here. So I’m kind of glad to get that over with, so folks can again start focusing on our players. They’re the ones that go out there and put the ball in the hole and defend. They deserve it.
On the end of the first half
In the last few minutes of the first half, we were playing in a half-court defense most of the time, and they’re very good at a half-court offense, obviously. They were able to find shooters. We lacked the pressure we needed at times and we weren’t scoring on the other end. We couldn’t get our press set to stretch out their offense. I thought our shot selection the last four minutes was not great, and we weren’t getting any second shots. All of that combined, and I’ve got to give credit to their kids for knocking down open shots.
On the play of Florida International’s Ashley Traugott
I kept thinking, Surely . . . , she’s going to miss. But after about four [3-pointers], I decided she’s not. She had an incredible game. The crowd cheered when she missed a shot in the second half. [Editor’s note: Trauggott, a senior, scored 25 points in the game against NC State, and she made 7 of 8 3-point attempts.]
On staying poised throughout the duration of the game
I thought I remained pretty poised, but I thought I showed some emotion when I needed to. I was screaming just as loud as the girls were a few times after we made some baskets and that’s OK. It’s the moment the girls need me to be settled down and under control that I want to be posed for them.
On adjustments at half-time
We made adjustments on what we were running. We’ve worked on our man offense quite a bit more than we’ve worked on our zone offense. We finally just went with our man offense and got a little more movement. We were standing to begin the second half, and I thought just the movement that our man offense gets was very positive.
They’re not going to do everything right, right now. But they’re still learning. We’ve told them they’ve got to talk it out and not give up, even when they make mistakes. And they did that tonight.
On the play of the bench
If I can substitute and play that many and play a full-court press, we’re doing something right. That’s something I was worried about. I was proud of our bench. I think, first of all, we had every kid available. We weren’t hindered by injuries tonight and that makes a difference. Secondly, I thought our bench did a great job. Especially bringing Brittany [Strachan], Tia [Bell]and Sharnise [Beal] off the bench — that’s some firepower. I like that. They have to give that to us. Whoever comes off the bench has to give us that spark. We’re going to run them and run them out. They know they have to give me everything they’ve got, and they know they’ll go back in if they do.
On whether the full-court press will become a staple of the Wolfpack’s game
I haven’t worked on it a lot. We were actually teaching a few points as we were going tonight. . . . We have multiple presses. Right now, I don’t feel confident with all of those. . . .We’re going to take it game by game. Not every team has to be pressed every possession. Some teams need to be pressed occasionally, and some teams do not need to be pressed. Our coaching staff understands our personnel and our opponent’s personnel to put us in the position to be successful. [For the game against FIU], I felt like we needed to be aggressive, and I felt that a press would help us with that. Going into the game, assistant coach Richard Barron and I talked about needing to press this team. We felt like that would give us an advantage.
On making free throws
We shoot a lot of free throws in pressure situations in practice, meaning that they’re going to have to run if they miss. They walk to the line with a lot of confidence and they should. They make them in practice. They should make them in games. [Editor’s note: NC State made 25 of 30 free throws (83.3 percent) against FIU, after shooting 70.7 percent from the line last season.]
On facing Vermont in the finals of the Sheraton Raleigh Wolfpack Invitational
A very good basketball team. They pass the ball very well and that is hard to guard. [Courtnay Pilypaitis] is very good. A good shooter and a great passer. They are going to be tough. [Editor’s note: The Wolfpack will face Vermont at 6 p.m. Saturday at Reynolds Coliseum.]