RALEIGH, N.C. – The NC State Wolfpack women’s basketball team extended its unbeaten streak with an 86-63 victory over the Davidson Wildcats at Reynolds Coliseum on Tuesday.
Four of the Wolfpack’s starters finished with double-digit scoring totals along with freshman guard Miah Spencer who came off the bench and put up a season and career-high 14 points along with 5 rebounds in 27 minutes of playing time.
When asked what head coach Wes Moore wanted her to do heading into the game after hitting a recent drop in her production, Spencer said, “Get my energy up, get my confidence back.”
“He saw that I was a little down, so he just encouraged me to keep shootin’, keep doing everything I could do to get my confidence back up for this game.”
Along with Spencer’s efficient 5-of-6 shooting performance, forwards Kody Burke (17 points, 5 rebounds), Markeisha Gatling (12 points, 6 rebounds), Krystal Barrett (10 points, 3 rebounds), and guard Len’Nique Brown (12 points, 5 assists, 5 steals) provided a majority of the 50-percent shooting boost that eventually overtook the Wildcats.
Looking to extend their best start to a season since 2001-2002, the Wolfpack (6-0) went to work early as Gatling dropped the game’s opening layup just 11 seconds into the game.
The rest of NC State’s starting lineup then got a touch on subsequent possessions, and before the Wildcats had realized what was happening, they trailed the Wolfpack 11-2.
However, Davidson took advantage of a few NC State turnovers and combined with a well-executed fast break dropped a few three-pointers and a layup of their own and only trailed by a point, 11-10, a few minutes later.
It was Hannah Early and Laura Murray who both finished with 21 points and five rebounds and powered the offense for the the Wildcats throughout.
“After we took off, we started relaxin’,” Brown said.
“We got comfortable in what we were doin’ and we let our guard down pretty much and they attacked on it.”
The Wolfpack’s hot shooting hands cooled, while the Wildcats’ trigger fingers stayed steady and allowed them to stay close.
Both teams battled back and forth, but the Wolfpack managed to stay ahead by three to six points for a period of eight minutes, never relinquishing the lead at that time, or for the remainder of the game.
The Wildcats soon experienced their own lapse and resurgence in NC State’s play at both ends allowed it to explode to put together a 15-5 run to the lead to 12 points by halftime, leading 45-33.
“It was tough to slow them down,” Moore said.
“But I thought the second half we did a much better half on the boards. We seemed to take care of the ball pretty decent in the second half and did some things that we need to do as a team. I thought we rotated them a little bit better defensively.”
Brown kept NC State’s scoring machine churning, hitting a three-pointer to open the second half, and the Wolfpack built upon its double-digit lead for the remainder of the game, leading by as many as 26 points with 4:55 to play.
In the end, the Wolfpack outrebounded the Wildcats 43-31 and picked up 12 steals to boost their fast break production, with Brown and Spencer picking up a seven of those combined.
“He was just telling us to stay on our feet, stay excited,” Spencer said of Moore’s motivational words on the sidelines.
“We both are quick, so I knew we could force turnovers. Doin’ that together helped the team get back on top of what we had to do.”
As the Wolfpack was in firm control of the outcome the game, a glance at the sideline showed Moore yelling and directing his players on the floor as if that wasn’t the case.
“Coach – it’s definitely coach,” Brown said of how the team is learning to play with significant leads while Moore keeps pushing them to play better.
“He wants perfection from us, so that’s what he strives for. When we’re winnin’ by 20, it feels like we’re still losin’ because he’s constantly yellin’ at us. We’re never gonna’ have a perfect game and he understands that, but he wants us to strive for that and I think that’s helped.”
For Moore, adding another win to the team’s total was important for a number of reasons, but most importantly to continue to develop his team to anticipate challenges and adversity, knowing that the difficulty of its schedule will increase exponentially within the next month.
“It’s been nice as a new coach when it’s almost like having 14 freshman because they’re having to learn a new system that’s new to ‘em and we’re havin’ to figure out what their strengths are,” Moore said.
“It’s been good and fortunately at a place like NC State you can open up with some home games. I never had that luxury before as a head coach either, so it’s been nice. Now we gotta’ take it on the road and see how it translates when we’re havin’ to play, in this case, a neutral court, and especially when we have to go on the road in a hostile environment.”
The Wolfpack will depart early on Wednesday and travel to play three games in three days at the inaugural Gulf Coast Showcase in Estero, Fla. tipping off against Wright State on Friday.