RALEIGH, N.C. – The N.C. State Wolfpack needed some time, but eventually outdistanced themselves from a tenacious Hampton Lady Pirates squad at Reynolds Coliseum on Wednesday.
Dominique Wilson led all scorers with 23 points, the result of an 8-of-11 shooting performance, as the Wolfpack earned their second win of the season, an 81-56 final in front of 1,773 in attendance in the historic, and recently-renovated facility.
Following a dominating 80-40 win at home over Wofford last Saturday, N.C. State showed that there was still much work to do as the incoming freshman class continued to learn head coach Wes Moore’s system to complement four returning senior starters in Wilson, Miah Spencer, Jennifer Mathurin (10 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists), and Ashley Williams (13 points, 2 rebounds).
“We started off slow,” Moore said.
“Might be that’s the way we practiced the last couple of days, so that might have been fitting. Then, second period, picked it up a little bit and played much better.”
Wilson claimed 12 points in the first quarter as the Wolfpack held a slim 17-13 lead over their MEAC opponent.
“It just seemed like the ball just kept landing in my hands,” Wilson said.
“I was open, so (I) just knocked down the shot.”
For Hampton, it was a group effort led by Malia Tate-Defreitas (16 points, 4 rebounds), Monnaz Finney-Smith (16 points, 5 rebounds, 3 steals), and Jephany Brown (8 points, 6 rebounds, 2 steals) that kept N.C. State seeking to find its pace early on.
Committing eight of its total 23 turnovers in the first half, N.C. State provided opportunities for the Lady Pirates to stay close.
“They’re still trying to learn the plays and learn their role,” Wilson said of the Wolfpack’s newer players.
“Of course you’re going to have that early in the season – high turnovers. All we can do is keep workin’ on it at practice before we get into ACC play because there are teams that all they do is trap. So, we’ve gotta work on that.”
State extended its lead to 22-15 with six minutes remaining in the opening half.
A three from Mathurin with 1:48 to go extended the Wolfpack’s advantage to 10.
Even while Hampton dropped its share of shots from the perimeter, N.C. State carried its momentum forward and finished on a 10-5 run and led 38-26 at the break.
Spencer, limited to 18 minutes, was doubled during her time on the floor early on and appeared to have twisted her ankle on one play that had Moore rest her – more as a precaution.
“I wanted to get Ealey in there some,” Moore said.
“I think she did a great job. I think once we had a comfortable lead, I wanted to get the young players in there and protect the veterans a little bit. They just played too many minutes last year. Right now, when we get an opportunity, I want to give them some blows.”
The Wolfpack came out firing in the third period with six straight three-pointers – three from Williams, two from Wilson, and one from Mathurin.
Williams dropped four-of-six on the night – all from beyond the arc.
That quickly countered the 2-3 zone that Hampton presented and allowed the Wolfpack to establish a larger buffer between the two teams for the remainder of the game.
“I just felt like I got a clean look to start,” Williams said.
“Once the first one went, then the second one – I was just feelin’ good I guess.”
The 18-6 run built up N.C. state’s advantage to 56-32 late in the third.
Leading 65-38 heading into the final period, Moore subbed in younger guards Ealey (7 points, 9 rebounds, 3 assists) and Aislinn Konig (6 points, 3 assists, 2 steals) to lead a reserve lineup on the floor against Hampton’s starters.
The Pirates ended the game with a two-point margin (18-16) over the Wolfpack in the final quarter, a sign that there is still much work to do for N.C. State if it looks to get to the next level after falling short of an NCAA Tournament bid last season, despite a winning season that included wins over Duke and North Carolina.
“The fourth period,” Moore started while shaking his head, “I may need counseling.”
“Freshman had a little trouble there with the press and pressure and all that. Twenty-three turnovers – that’s not a good stat line. We’re gonna see the press pretty soon from some other people. Hopefully we can clean that up and keep buildin’, tryin’ to get better. I like our freshmen, I think they have potential. We gotta grow up in a hurry. It’s gonna get a lot tougher.”
Notes: Former Wolfpack center Keisha Gatling, a second-year pro with the WNBA’s Atlanta Dream, was in attendance after returning home early to Raleigh from playing in Turkey. While women’s European league play is underway, safety concerns related to threats of violence in the country brought her home to focus on training for the 2017 WNBA season as well as to allow her time to complete course work to finish her degree at N.C. State.