Shooting, defensive play keys to well-rounded Wolfpack victory
By Peter Koutroumpis
RALEIGH, N.C. – Double-digit finishes from five players propelled the N.C. State Wolfpack to a 79-55 win over the Tulane Green Wave at Reynolds Coliseum on Sunday afternoon.
Aislinn Konig led the Wolfpack offense with 19 points, including five three-pointers, while Chelsea Nelson (16 points), Kiara Leslie (14 points), Akela Maize (12 points) and Lucky Rudd (10 points) supported the effort.
Kolby Morgan (20 points) and Harlyn Wyatt (10 points) carried the Green Wave.
While finishing with a 44-percent shooting performance from the field, the Wolfpack’s play without the ball created 15 Tulane turnovers and a 42-24 rebounding margin that resulted in 32 points in the paint, and 23 from second-chance opportunities.
N.C State shared the ball effectively and finished with 18 total assists led by four each from Leslie and Kayla Ealey.
“I felt like we might see some zone,” N.C. State head coach Wes Moore said.
“We did a good job of attacking it, especially getting to the offensive boards. That’s the thing about a zone. It’s hard to box out sometimes, so I thought we did a great job there. It also helps when you’re knocking down threes at a forty percent rate. It was good to see that happen.”
Defensively, Leslie missed the double-double, coming one rebound short with nine, while Nelson and Maize pulled down eight and six, respectively.
“We did a great job on the boards for the most part on both ends, and I think that was a big part of the win,” Moore added.
“We knew they’d press some. We handled that fairly decently for the most part. It was a good all-around performance; it was a good win.”
N.C. State led 38-26 following a second quarter of play during which the Wolfpack defense caused numerous Tulane turnovers.
The Green Wave’s departure from strong outside shooting during the opening quarter played to N.C. State’s advantage.
Leslie led the Wolfpack offense with 12 points while Konig and Maize supported with eight apiece.
Morgan’s 12 points and Wyatt’s eight led the Green Wave.
Tulane’s 12 turnovers played a significant role in helping the Wolfpack to dominate on the break (6 points), in the paint (18 points), and on second chance opportunities (14 points).
A big third quarter swing allowed the Wolfpack to step on the gas and extend its lead to 24 points.
Coupled with poor shooting from the Green Wave and taking advantage of turnovers, N.C. State continued to take advantage of scoring opportunities in the paint and from the perimeter.
Two separate scoring runs of 11-5 and 13-5 provided ample separation to coast to the win, staying even with Tulane through the final quarter.
“I don’t think we were really thinking whether or not we were going to match her (Morgan) three-for-three,” Konig said.
“We really focus on the defense inside. I shot when I was open and then we get back and play defense as best we can.”
Tulane established possession early and put up the game’s first points at the 9:02 mark.
Leslie was the scoring catalyst early on, putting up four quick points with Maize and Nelson supporting with points in the paint.
State led 12-8 with 5:28 remaining.
Tulane worked to keep pace with productive perimeter shooting led by Wyatt’s three jumpers.
Morgan paced the Green Wave with two 3s while Konig and Leslie supported with long balls of their own.
The Wolfpack held a 21-17 lead with 1:16 to go.
Both teams struggled from the field to end the period – Tulane missing four attempts beyond the arc while the Wolfpack missed on rebounds in close.
N.C. State held a five-point advantage as Leslie carried the load with nine points and Nelson supported with five.
Morgan’s eight points and Wyatt’s six kept Tulane close.
The Green Wave worked to re-establish its success from the perimeter as Wyatt dropped a three which Konig soon matched.
The Wolfpack extended its lead to 10 points, 32-22, with 6:28 to play in the half.
Tulane changed gears and tried to draw N.C. State into foul trouble and worked to earn points in the paint.
N.C. State kept pace and maintained its 10-point lead as each team only managed a basket apiece in a two-minute span.
Scoring continued to come at a premium for the remainder of the period as missed shots and fouls committed by both teams kept N.C. State in control, leading 38-26 at halftime.
An 11-5 run extended the Wolfpack lead to 18 points, 49-31, by the midpoint of the period.
Tulane continued to struggle from the field, going scoreless for a four-plus minute stretch.
Eight points, including two 3s, from Konig generated a subsequent 13-4 run that pinned the Green Waves’ shoulders to the mat for the duration, as 30-percent shooting couldn’t keep pace.
On the other side, a 56-percent conversion rate from the field enabled the Wolfpack lead to stretch to 62-38 heading into the final quarter.
While Tulane showed better during the final 10 minutes, putting together a nine-point surge to finish, three straight three-pointers from Lucky Rudd neutralized the effort as both sides split the half with 17 points apiece.
Utilizing its bench, Tulane put together an 8-5 start to the period before N.C. State pieced together an 8-2 answer from Nelson and DD Rogers.
Rudd’s highlight-reel launches from the distance capped of the win and the crowd of 2,008 on hand showed its appreciation accordingly.
The bottom line
“I feel inside is a strength,” Nelson said.
“Throughout the season our guards have gotten more comfortable and we’re startin’ to get a better feel for each other, and we’re startin’ to play together.”
“We have a lot of room to grow,” Konig added.
“We don’t get in situations where we don’t have an option. We have so many different players who are so good at different things. It’s gonna be hard to stop us when we really grow into our roles and figure out exactly what we’re good at and what we can do to win.”
Peter Koutroumpis, 401-323-8960, @pksport