The Wolfpacker

May 2012

The Wolfpacker: An Independent Magazine Covering NC State Sports

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Page 51 of 79

K BY BRIAN RAPP ellie Harper has one small request for whoever is in charge of next year's Atlantic Coast Conference women's basketball schedule. Please don't have her NC State team open its conference schedule with Duke, Miami and Maryland, the top three finish- ers this season, for its first three games. "I really do believe that the way the ACC schedule started for us really hurt us, hurt our confidence," the Wolfpack's third-year head coach said in assessing the Pack's 2011-12 season. "We had a pretty good record going into ACC play [10-3, the best since 2007], we had some quality wins and really felt good about ourselves." improve on last year's 14-17 record, only the fifth losing season in the program's 38-year history, both coach and players had hoped for much more this past winter. "We did improve in some areas, and we showed we were capable of competing with the best teams in the conference," Harper noted. In fact, with the tournament wins over FSU and Duke, NC State became only the third ACC team to own wins over every other team in the conference over the past three years (along with Duke and UNC). "At the same time," she added, "I think ONE WILD RIDE our expectations were a lot higher this year — and I think that's where I feel more dis- appointment, probably. Then, in the span of seven days, the Pack dropped consecutive 10-point decisions to Georgia Tech (the eventual ACC Tourna- ment runners-up) and 12th-ranked Miami, and then lost to eventual ACC regular-sea- son champion Duke in a 24-point blowout at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Though the Pack won its next three ACC Wolfpack's 2011-12 Roller-Coaster Season "We had some really high highs and Youth Plus Inconsistency Marked outings (home against Boston College, at Clemson and at Wake Forest), that 3-3 start was the high point of conference play. NC State won just two of its final eight ACC games. "I think the way the schedule played out, meaning we played three of the best teams in the conference first, was very tough on us," Harper said. "And I don't know that we fully recovered from that." The Pack was able to rebound in the conference tournament with a 74-71 win over Florida State in the first round and then a stunning 75-73 upset of top-seeded and No. 5-ranked Duke — NC State's first victories over those two teams in five years. Though its 18-15 record wasn't good enough to make the NCAA Tourna- ment field, NC State was selected for the 64-team WNIT for the third time in the program's history, but was upset in the second round, 66-62, by an Appalachian State team it had never lost to in 24 previ- ous meetings — a loss that also snapped a string of 50 consecutive wins by the Pack over in-state, non-conference opponents stretching back to 1981. While the Pack's final 19-16 mark did 52 ■ THE WOLFPACKER some great wins over quality opponents [the wins over FSU and Duke, plus an early-season, 66-59 victory over then 18th- ranked Vanderbilt, capping a string of three straight wins over Southeastern Conference teams in December]. And we went through some low lows [early losses to Creighton, Northwestern and Richmond, a 55-47 loss to Virginia at home and a 70-57 defeat by Wake Forest in this year's Hoops for Hope game] in games where we just did not per- form up to our capabilities. Those are the games that, when they're over, you want to play again because you know you just wasted an opportunity." Added fifth-year senior forward Tia Bell: "I definitely expected us to be playing in the NCAA Tournament. I don't think we fulfilled our goals — and I do think our record this year was unacceptable. "I think there were a lot of moments when we just weren't focused, and it took a loss, or a team meeting, or a reality check to recognize that." Both Harper and Bell pointed to youth as a main factor in the Pack's roller-coaster play this season — which might seem strange considering NC State returned four of its five starters from a year ago. But as Harper pointed out, of that group only senior forward Bonae Holston and junior guard Marissa Kastanek were expe- rienced veterans. Fifth-year senior Emili Tasler, who wound up replacing graduated Amber White in the starting lineup, had played just 47 games the previous four And I've always believed that youth and inconsistency go hand in hand." While the Pack's biggest area of im- provement in 2011-12 was defense — NC State allowed opponents an average of 65.0 points a game, 6.3 fewer than last year's average — NC State scored 8.2 fewer points per game on offense (67.8) than its ACC-leading average in 2010-11. Both Holston and Kastanek, the top two returning scorers from a year ago, saw their averages dip this winter. Kastanek, an hon- orable mention All-ACC selection for the second consecutive year, raised her shooting percentage to 42.9 percent from 41.0 last year, but averaged 12.9 points per game, down from 13.6 in 2010-11 — and was still the team's leading scorer this season. That's because the Pack's leading scorer the past two years, Holston — who aver- aged 16.3 points a contest last year — was held to just 12.3 points a game this year. Holston, who ends her career with 26 double-doubles (ninth all time) and 1,624 points (eighth), will be the biggest hole Harper must fill next season. In addition, Tasler, the team's best on-ball defender, must also be replaced, along with Bell — who was one of the team's more effective inside players in the final month of the season — and reserves Kim Durham and Paige Woodard. Forward Bonae Holston closed her Wolfpack career with totals of 1,624 points (No. 8 on the Pack's all-time scoring list) and 916 rebounds (No. 6 on NCSU's all-time rebounding chart). PHOTO BY ROB BRADLEY years due to recurring knee injuries, and forward Kody Burke and point guard Myi- sha Goodwin-Coleman were both sopho- mores with just 30 games under their belts. "I feel you have to get halfway through your sophomore year before you develop some game maturity," Harper said. "Any- thing prior to that is a bonus. This year, we relied pretty heavily on six underclass players [including sophomore post Lakeesa Daniel, and freshman guards Krystal Bar- rett and Erica Donovan and forward Kiana Evans], and two of the seniors were fifth- year players with limited playing time. I don't want to use that as an excuse, but you do have to look at things rationally and understand this was a very young team.

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