Although this wasn’t its cleanest performance, the No. 9 NC State women’s basketball team wore down Wake Forest 59-45 Sunday, Jan. 19 in Reynolds Coliseum.
The Wolfpack (17-1, 6-1 ACC) shot just 32.3% from the floor and 31.3% from deep and turned the ball over 13 times, but still won by 14 points against a talented Demon Deacons (11-7, 4-3 ACC) team. Junior forward Kayla Jones led the team with 15 points and 11 rebounds in her fourth double-double of the season.
“We really wanted to get out and run,” said NC State head coach Wes Moore. “You saw we had a hard time scoring in the half court. Thought transition was about the only place we got on some runs. Hopefully, we can do that a little more, take care of the ball a little bit better, click a little bit better offensively. You’re thankful to get out of here with a win on a day when you missed a whole lot of layups and wide-open looks.”
Wake Forest scored the first five points of the game, but senior guard Aislinn Konig stopped its momentum with a corner 3-pointer with a defender in her face. A few plays later, senior forward Erika Cassell hit a deep ball of her own to give the Pack its first lead of the game.
Freshman wing Jakia Brown-Turner scored five NC State points in a row to boost the Pack’s lead, which was 18-16 at the end of the quarter. Six of the nine players that found playing time in the first quarter scored, led by Brown-Turner with five. The Pack shot 42.9% from the floor and 60% from deep in the first session.
Both defenses tightened up in the second quarter, as only four total points were scored in the first five minutes. A big reason for that was that the Pack had five turnovers and five personal fouls in the quarter. However, toward the end of the half, NC State found a groove. The Wolfpack went on a 9-0 run, led by Brown-Turner, Konig and graduate guard Kaila Ealey, and entered the half with a 31-26 lead.
Brown-Turner continued to lead NC State with nine points by the end of the quarter. Konig had six points, four rebounds and four assists, and Jones had five points and six rebounds. Wake Forest’s leading scorer, Ivana Raca, had 10 points and six rebounds at the half.
“[Kayla Jones] has learned to be aggressive offensively, not only attacking the basket but also trying to get to the offensive boards,” Moore said. “That was a point of emphasis with her because she had a couple of games where she only had three or four rebounds.”
Out of the half and after a Brown-Turner layup, Wake Forest went on a 9-0 run to take a one-point lead, but it wouldn’t last long, as the Pack put together a 7-0 run of its own to get the crowd back into it. Sophomore center Elissa Cunane, who was very quiet, made two free throws and a 3-pointer. NC State had a 44-37 lead after three periods.
The Pack increased its lead in the fourth quarter, as Jones and freshman forward Jada Boyd scored six points each. However, some of the sloppiness continued, as NC State had four turnovers. The whole afternoon consisted of shooting struggles from a number of players, including junior guard Kai Crutchfield, who went 0 for 9 on the day and has had a couple of tough shooting games while battling a thumb injury on her shooting hand.
“I think being a great team is paying attention to details,” Brown-Turner said. “For example, boxing out so you’re able to get the rebound, especially offensively. Getting an offensive rebound is very important to the team.”
The Wolfpack will be on the road on Thursday, Jan. 23 at 7 p.m. against Pittsburgh before returning home on Sunday, Jan. 26 for a rematch against North Carolina.
“Anybody in this league will bite you if you don’t come ready to play,” Moore said.