Wolfpack women beat No. 12 LSU for best start in years

CorrespondentDecember 20, 2013 

— N.C. State’s women havewon a lot of basketball games this season, but on Friday night at Reynolds Coliseum the Wolfpack got first-year coach Wes Moore a signature win.

State got 25 points apiece from Markeisha Gatling and Kody Burke and 17 from Len’Nique Brown, controlling the game for the entire second half in an 89-79 win over No. 12 LSU.

The Wolfpack improved to 11-1 while the Tigers fell to 9-2.

LSU had won the teams’ only previous meeting 81-73 last year in Baton Rouge.

“I’m proud of our kids,” Moore said. “It wasn’t always pretty; especially in the second half we could have taken care of the ball a little bit better. We did have more assists than turnovers (19-17). But I liked the effort, the way we handled pressure in a big-game atmosphere. When LSU made some great runs at us we handled it pretty well.”

Theresa Plaisance led the Tigers with 18 points off the bench while Jeanne Kenney added 17 and Rina Hill 15.

State’s biggest lead was 86-71 with 42 seconds to go.

“First off, a lot of credit to N.C. State,” LSU coach Nikki Caldwell said. “There is a great legacy here, but more important is what they’re building. It’s an honor to play on the court of Kay Yow who has meant so much to the women’s game. You look at this game and it was a battle of who wanted it more, and I felt N.C. State had that edge. They came to play and they made big plays.”

Gatling hit 11 of 13 field-goal attempts and grabbed eight rebounds, Burke was 9-for-15 from the floor while Brown was 4-for-5 from outside the 3-point circle and had seven assists and six rebounds.

“I still need to take care of the ball better,” Brown said. “But with the atmosphere and the fans being here and the No. 12 team, everybody was hyped tonight. Everybody played together well and that helped me. I was just being aggressive, and that’s what I focused on tonight.”

The Wolfpack led 43-34 at halftime behind 16 points from Gatling and 10 from Brown. Plaisance had 13 at the break for the visitors. N.C. State shot 47.2 percent to LSU’s 50, but had 22 points in the paint to the Tigers’ 10.

State took a 17-10 lead on a 3-pointer from Brown with 14:54 left in the first half before the Tigers roared back, taking their largest and only lead at 24-21 on Danielle Ballard’s jumper at 8:54.

Gatling responded with nine straight points to put the Wolfpack ahead to stay. LSU never again made it a one-possession game.

“I was like smiling like the whole last minute,” Gatling said. “This was pretty good. Things just came to us. Coach spends a lot of time talking about getting me the ball, and we did pretty good with it tonight.”

One key stretch was the final 5:02 of the half, when with Gatling on the bench with two fouls, each team scored nine points. Burke was also on the bench with two for the last 3:45 of the half.

“This feels great, knowing that we’re going home (for Christmas) with a win,” said Burke, who played 36 minutes. “We had practiced very well with our zone offense, knowing all the traps they run. We had good practices which is why we executed so well. Everyone stepped up and contributed well tonight.”

And after Gatling fouled out with 3:58 left and her team up 72-64, the Tigers were never able to get closer than seven points.

The Wolfpack’s next game is Dec. 28 against Kansas State in the first round of the San Diego Surf ’n Slam Tournament that also includes San Diego State and UC Riverside.

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