It didn’t have to be pretty.
It just had to be a win.
And over the last four minutes of Thursday night’s first-round WNIT game against Richmond at Reynolds Coliseum, N.C. State got it done.
The Wolfpack went on a run at just the right time, using a team effort to shake off the Spiders down the stretch in a 60-55 victory.
The win allowed N.C. State (17-16) to advance to a second-round game Sunday at 2 p.m. at James Madison (23-10), which came back to beat visiting N.C. A&T 77-64 on Thursday night.
Richmond, which had beaten the Wolfpack 72-58 in Raleigh last season, finished 16-16.
Markeisha Gatling led the Wolfpack with 14 points and nine rebounds, while Kody Burke chipped in 12 points and nine rebounds.
“Where do you start?” said N.C. State coach Kellie Harper, whose team is assured at least a .500 season. “We knew this was going to be a tough matchup. They’re a solid basketball team. And I’m really, really proud of our team down the stretch. When we had to make a play, we made a play.
“We made our free throws down the stretch. I’m proud of our team finding a way to finish that game.”
Becca Wann came off the bench for the Spiders and led all scorers with 20 points and 11 rebounds.
“It was what we expected,” Richmond coach Michael Shaver said. “They’re a physical, big basketball team, and I think that’s the difference in their team this year. When the game mattered, when we got the lead and they needed to make plays, they imposed their size on us and we didn’t have an answer.
“It was a great basketball game and a great challenge.”
State, which won one and lost one in last season’s WNIT, shot 38.6 percent from the floor to Richmond’s 33.9 and rolled up a 44-30 advantage on the boards. The Wolfpack committed 21 turnovers to Richmond’s 18.
The final score was the Wolfpack’s biggest lead in a contest that had five ties and 10 lead changes.
Richmond was up 41-35 following a steal and layup from Broughton High product Amber Nichols before the Wolfpack rallied.
Marissa Kastanek’s jumper cut the margin to 47-44 with 3:59 to go. Then with the Spiders up 49-47 Gatling had back-to-back layups on smooth passes, the first from Kastanek at 2:48 and the second from Burke at 2:03.
The Wolfpack hit nine of 10 free throws from four different players from that point, the last two from Gatling with 11.1 to go to finish the scoring.
“I just knew we needed a basket,” Gatling said of the back-to-back layups. “I knew I had to make plays.”
Kastanek said she was feeling some extra urgency in the closing minutes, since her last game in this tournament will be her last college game.
“It was pretty intense,” said Kastanek, who played in her 132nd game to set a school record. “But I knew I couldn’t force everything. I knew Keisha and Kody needed to get the ball, because they were so much bigger. And they were on a run for that last part.”
State led 28-24 at the break after a cold-shooting half for both teams. The Wolfpack shot 41.4 percent from the floor over the period to the Spiders’ 33.3 and was leading the rebound battle 24-12, but had committed 14 turnovers to Richmond’s 11.