Kellie Harper’s club (19-15) looks for its second 20-win season in her three years at the helm when the Wolfpack hosts Appalachian State in a second-round contest.
But to do it, the Wolfpack will have to beat ASU’s best team ever.
The Wolfpack never trailed in scoring its season high in an 88-78 first-round win over High Point on Thursday night, while the Mountaineers are coming off a 79-73 win at UNC Wilmington.
The Southern Conference regular-season champions come into the contest with a 26-6 record, and certainly with a chip on the shoulder what with its 0-24 all-time record against NCSU.
And the Wolfpack has won 50 straight home games against in-state teams not from the ACC, going back to 1981.
The Mountaineers shoot 57.7 percent in the second half, holding on for a 66-62 victory that is arguably the best in school history.
NCSU leads 33-27 following a jumper from Marissa Kastanek — the last of her four points on the day — before the Mountaineers respond with a 9-2 run.
That begins a series of five lead changes, the last on an Anna Freeman 3-pointer to make it 41-39 with 13:01 left.
The Mountaineers’ biggest lead comes when Freeman hits another 3-pointer to make it 60-51 at 5:20, and the Wolfpack never again gets the ball with a chance to tie.
Freeman finishes with 26 points and Mallow 14.
Burke has her fifth double-double of the season with 21 points and 11 rebounds, while Bonae Holston finishes with nine points to go with her 12 rebounds. Holston is eighth on the Wolfpack’s all-time scoring list and sixth in rebounds.
ASU shoots 45.5 percent from the floor to the Wolfpack’s 32.9. The Wolfpack wins the rebound battle 50-37, but commits 23 turnovers to 21 for ASU.
They said it …
Harper: “As a coach I don’t think I’ve ever gone into a game with a season-ending speech in mind. It’s really hard in the locker room to go in and look at the seniors. It’s not how we wanted our season to end. We had hopes of playing a little bit more basketball, but it just wasn’t meant to be. Appalachian State is a very good basketball team and we knew this coming in, it was not a situation where we were overlooking someone. Looking just at N.C. State the team that got us most of the season got us tonight, and it was a little bit of lack of focus and lack of consistency.”
Appalachian coach Darcie Vincent: “This was a wonderful women’s basketball game. It was pretty, there were some great defensive things and hustles, and the biggest thing for our team was that we had to win all the hustle plays. We couldn’t give them those easy-tip balls for open ‘3s’ or open layups and we probably won those by a 70-30 ratio. … This is huge. It’s bigger than just coming in here and beating N.C. State. I think the fact we got our first win in the WNIT two nights ago, and then got our second win over an ACC team (Wake Forest) with our seniors is going to turn a lot of heads.”
Burke: “In the first half I started off with great focus, and I guess I let my tightness get the best of me and that might have affected me a little bit in the second half. And they played better defense on me as well. It was harder for me to get rebounds.”
Freeman: “I grew up a State fan, so it’s a big deal to me. I grew up a big Kay Yow fan and we grew up watching that. That’s a big deal. And I won the state championship here in junior year (for East Davidson).”
What does it all mean?
That the Wolfpack finished up an OK season, and that ASU is still looking for more glory.
Stars of the game
1. Anna Freeman.
Play of the game
Freeman’s steal and 3-pointer to make it 60-51 with 5:20 to go.
NCSU: Lost 1.
ASU: Won 2.
NCSU leads 24-1.
ASU in next round of WNIT, against Virginia or Richmond at site TBA
NCSU in 2012-13 season opener