RALEIGH, N.C. – The N.C. State Wolfpack held on for a 66-62 victory over the High Point Panthers at Reynolds Coliseum on Friday.
Guards Miah Spencer (14 points, 5 rebounds), Dominique Wilson (12 points, 2 steals), and Krystal Barrett (10 points, 5 assists), along with center Carlee Schuhmacher (10 points, 7 rebounds, 3 blocks), finished in double digits as the Wolfpack beat last season’s Big South Conference regular-season champions.
Leading the Panthers was the trio of Stacia Robertson (20 points, 7 rebounds, 4 steals), Kaylah Keys (13 points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists) and Kat Harris (9 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists) who created difficulties for the N.C. State defense throughout the game, in the paint and around the perimeter.
“I’m not real good at hiding my emotions,” Wolfpack head coach Wes Moore said.
“We’ve got a long way to go. Very frustrating. Obviously, give High Point a lot of credit. They came in here, and were not intimidated. They got after us defensively – made it hard for us to run our stuff. Then offensively, they just took it to us – especially in the post – Robertson did a great job. It’s scary – we’ve got a lot of work to do.”
The two teams met for the fifth time in their history with the Wolfpack holding a 4-0 lead in the series, and with their last meeting taking place back on Mar. 15, 2012 in the first round of the WNIT – an 88-78 win for the Wolfpack.
Barrett and Spencer paced the offense early and gave N.C. State a 9-4 lead, but High Point stayed closed as Robertson worked from inside, while Keys did the same from the outside.
Three’s from Spencer and Len’Nique Brown (6 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists, 4 steals) eventually stretched the Wolfpack lead to 15-8 by the first media timeout.
Even while extending its lead to seven points, the Wolfpack didn’t defend the perimeter well and allowed the Panthers to eventually take a 23-22 lead with seven minutes to play in the half.
High Point outworked N.C. State throughout the game, claiming a few more boards, making a few more shots from the field, but the Wolfpack showed some resilience – getting down, but not entirely out.
Spencer drove the baseline and gave N.C. State the lead back following a timeout during which Moore gave a visibly stern and vocal message to his players.
“A lot of it goes back to some effort, some energy, some toughness,” Moore said.
Wilson hit a jumper to push State’s lead up to 31-27 with four minutes to play which was quickly answered back by the Panthers’ Harris.
Leading 32-29, N.C. State took advantage of a three-minute stretch during which High Point committed four turnovers, and pulled further ahead.
After Brown stole the ball, Barrett extended the lead to 37-29 with a baseline drive and successful foul shot.
The Wolfpack led 39-32 at the half.
“We wanted to start the game aggressive and push tempo,” Barrett said.
“That’s what we did in the first half. We had a lot of turnovers and the defense wasn’t as good. At halftime, that’s what we talked about – better defense second half.”
According to Spencer, the team didn’t take advantage of the scouting reports on High Point and that resulted in the Wolfpack struggling to hold on for the win during the final 20 minutes of play.
While forward Ashley Eli (4 points) scored N.C. State’s first basket in the second half, it came in between back-to-back baskets from Robertson.
Combined with High Point’s other post player, Deanneisha Jackson (8 points, 3 rebounds), Robertson made it increasingly difficult for the Wolfpack to hold onto to its lead.
With three fouls, Jennifer Mathurin dropped her first and only basket of the game, a three that extended the Wolfpack lead to 10 points, 48-38, with 15:55 to play.
High Point then went on a 7-2 run and got closer, but the Wolfpack’s tenacious defensive play in picking off passes slowed the Panthers’ progress.
However, N.C. State’s inability to take advantage of easy layup opportunities in transition kept High Point in the game.
With 10 minutes remaining, the Panthers pulled to within three, trailing 52-49, before Spencer scored the Wolfpack’s first points after a four-minute scoring drought.
Both teams struggled from the field while turning the ball over to one another and no points were scored for the next three minutes and N.C. State held its 54-49 lead.
After Robertson stole the ball and ran in for a layup, Wilson drained a shot to keep the teams five points apart with five minutes to play.
Following a Panthers jumper, Wilson’s two free throws and a turnaround jumper in the lane from Schuhmacher extended the N.C. State lead to seven points.
A steal by Brown and an outlet pass to Wilson then pushed it up to nine points, 62-53, with 2:51 to play.
It looked as though N.C. State had firm control of the game at that point.
That was a wrong assumption.
A three from Keys quickly cut the lead down to six.
While a steal from Robertson gave High Point the ball, a scramble for it and the possession arrow pointed the other way, gave N.C. State possession with two minutes to play.
With the Wolfpack leading 62-56, High Point called timeout with 57 seconds remaining.
Robertson then scored, but Wilson eventually pushed State’s lead back up by one from the free throw line.
With the ball in Robertson’s hand, Schuhmacher came up with a successful defensive stand that denied the Panthers’ top scorer a clean shot.
Spencer rebounded the ball, was fouled and went to the line to score two more putting the Wolfpack lead at 65-58.
With 22 seconds remaining, both teams traded more fouls and free throw attempts, and a layup from Robertson came with seven seconds remaining.
With time on the clock counting down, the Wolfpack held tightly on to the ball and the 66-62 win.
“In the last couple of minutes, we had to pay attention to the details, the little things,” Spencer concluded.
“Defense in who we’re guarding, the situation, what we’re runnin’ on defense, how we’re playin’ pick on balls and stuff like that. We just have to pay attention to the details more.”
Along with his guard, Moore concurred that although his team might have won and sits with a 4-0 record, it still is not close to where it needs to be.
“Right now, we’re lacking some of those intangibles that good teams can’t survive without,” Moore concluded.
“We’re gonna’ have to, in a hurry, clean things up, turn things up, and play better basketball.”