The Wolfpacker

May 2017 Issue

The Wolfpacker: An Independent Magazine Covering NC State Sports

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Page 53 of 87

54 ■ THE WOLFPACKER WOMEN'S BASKETBALL Best Moment/Buzzer Beater No question about this one — Spencer's running, one-handed jump shot from 11 feet just before the buzzer to end overtime that propelled the Pack to a 72-70 upset of then seventh-ranked Louisville Feb. 2. It was also the Pack's first win on the Cardinals' home court. Biggest Heartbreak Again, little doubt on this one — the 84-80 loss to Texas that ended NC State's season in the second round of the NCAA Tournament March 19. After losing a five- point lead going into the fourth quarter, the Pack, trailing 81-80, appeared to score the go-ahead basket with Wilson's drive and score with seven seconds left. But referee Jules Gallien whistled Wil- son for a charge, ending both Wilson's ca- reer (she fouled out on the play), and the Pack's last chance for a Sweet 16 trip. Best Individual Performance In that Texas game, Spencer — whose previous single-game career best was 26 points in a WNIT second-round game at East Carolina in 2015 — almost single- handedly kept the Pack in the contest. She hit 11 of 18 shots from the field and 9 of 10 free throws to finish with a career- best 31 points (including 12 of NC State's 20 points in the fourth period), before a controversial foul call ended her career with 1:03 left in the contest. Rookie of the Year Despite missing 13 games with a frac- ture in her foot, freshman guard Aislinn Konig finished sixth on the team in scoring (7.1 points per game) and minutes played (17.1 per game), tied for third in field goal accuracy (41.3 percent) among players av- eraging 10 or more minutes a game, and third in three-point shooting percentage (35.7, 30 of 84). Most Improved Player Junior post Chelsea Nelson entered this season averaging a modest 5.9 points and 4.5 rebounds per game for her first two years in Raleigh. But the junior from Antioch, Tenn., became a vital force underneath this season, the missing puzzle piece to the suc- cess of coach Wes Moore's four-out, one-in offense that had worked so well three years ago with standout Markeisha Gatling. Nelson led the Pack with 192 rebounds (6.0 per game) and was third in scoring with a career-best 11.2 points per contest, including five games in which she was the team's top scorer. Best Defensive Player NC State's defensive scheme makes it hard to single out one player since all five starters are constantly switching and rotating. However, Moore has stated that Wilson has had the assignment to guard the op- ponents' top perimeter player since she became a starter three years ago — and her team-leading 51 steals clinches the selec- tion. Best Shooter Senior guard Ashley Williams led the Pack this year in accuracy from long range, making 73 of 178 three-point attempts (41.0 percent). But overall, Williams was 15.4 percent- age points behind NC State's most accurate shooter this season: Nelson, who canned 136 of her 240 total attempts, 56.7 per- cent — the best accuracy from a post since Gatling's nation-leading 66.3-percent mark (232 of 350) in 2013-14. ■ One of the strengths that NC State women's bas- ketball coach Wes Moore frequently noted about his fourth team in Raleigh was its experience. The Pack's four senior starting members — guards Miah Spencer, Dominique Wilson and Ash- ley Williams, and forward Jenn Mathurin — ended their careers with 337 combined starts, or 72 per- cent of all games they played in their NC State careers. That foursome has accounted for 4,506 of the 9,070 points (49.7 percent) NC State had scored in the 129 games played since the beginning of the 2013-14 season. That's a huge amount of production that must be replaced, especially on the perimeter, where Williams and Wilson also have been the team's most consistent three-point shooters the bulk of their careers. Mathurin's departure also means the loss of a forward with a career average of 5.2 rebounds a game. Chelsea Nelson — a 6-2 junior, and the Pack's top rebounder (6.0 a game) and third-leading scorer (11.2 per game) this past season — will be the lone returning starter that Moore will rebuild around. Her backup, 6-5 junior Akela Maize, saw a personal-best 11.8 minutes per game this season, second highest of the team's interior players, with a career-high 11 points in the Pack's 72-70 overtime win at Louisville. Sophomore DD Rogers (10.4 minutes and 3.0 rebounds per game) has become a consistent backup at the four position, and 6-3 sophomore Nae Nae Cole (9.3 minutes and 2.8 points per game) gives the team some options for "big" combinations in the lineup. Of the remaining five expected returners, redshirt freshman Kaila Ealy saw the most game time this season (13.2 minutes per contest) as backup to Spencer at point guard. She tallied 47 assists, fourth on the team, in 29 appearances after sitting out all but four games last season due to an injury. Sophomore Camille Anderson only saw action in nine games this season, while Ais - linn Konig led the Pack's group of three freshmen newcomers with 19 appearances and 7.1 points per contest. Guard Lucky Rudd and forward Erika Cas- sell combined to average slightly more than eight minutes and two points per game. Armani Hawkins, a 5-10 guard from Arizona, should help bring some needed experience to the backcourt. The sophomore transferred to NC State from Arizona State in December after appearing in 16 games for the Sun Devils the past two seasons. Hawkins was rated the No. 22 guard and No. 100 overall prospect in the class of 2015 by ESPNW HoopGurlz, and will be eligible to play following the 2017 fall semester. As a high school senior, she averaged 22.0 points, 4.8 boards and 1.9 blocks per game, and was named to The Arizona Republic's All-Arizona team and The Mesa Tribune's first team. Kai Crutchfield and Kayla Jones were NC State's early signees for the class of 2017. Crutchfield, a 5-8 guard from Raleigh's Millbrook High School, is ranked as the No. 24 guard and No. 82 overall prospect nationally by ESPNW HoopGurlz plus is a two-time all-state selection. As a junior, she led Millbrook to the Class 4A state championship, scor - ing the winning basket in the title game en route to tournament MVP honors. Jones, a 6-1 forward from Jamesville, N.C., is listed as the No. 20 forward in the class of 2017. She was a two-time all-state selection as a freshman and sophomore, but was injured and missed most of her junior year. ESPNW HoopGurlz director Dan Olson described Jones as a "mismatch producer … capable of playing at an elite level, scoring efficiently in the paint as well as pulling defenders to the [three-point] arc." Despite having nine veterans, plus a two-year transfer, on the roster, the 2017-18 Pack — with just one returning starter — will be the youngest squad in Moore's five years at the helm. — Brian Rapp Junior post Chelsea Nelson averaged 5.9 points and 4.5 rebounds per game coming into this season, but im- proved those numbers to 11.2 points and 6.0 rebounds per contest in 2016-17. She will be the team's lone returning starter. PHOTO BY KEN MARTIN Departing Senior Quartet Leaves Major Holes To Fill

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