RALEIGH, N.C. (AP)Kai Crutchfield scored 21 points and No. 8 North Carolina State opened the season with impressive shooting in a 93-65 victory against North Florida on Wednesday.
Jada Boyd had 15 points and 10 rebounds, Jakia Brown-Turner scored 13 points and Elissa Cunane posted 12 points for the Wolfpack.
”It was good to get a game in,” N.C. State coach Wes Moore said. ”That was the biggest thing right there, to get to play.”
N.C. State was coming off an ACC Tournament championship in March before the rest of the season was cancelled, notching its first league title since 1991.
The Wolfpack picked up where it left off. N.C. State made six of its first 10 attempts from 3-point range, including Crutchfield’s 4-for-4 rate. By halftime, the Wolfpack was 7-for-13 (53.8%) from deep.
”Their early 3-point shooting really hurt us,” North Florida coach Darrick Gibbs said. ”We needed to really pack the paint and they were able to burn us for it in the first half.”
N.C. State, which finished at 49.3% from the field, held a 45-27 halftime lead and then scored the first 10 points of the second half.
”I didn’t think we shot it particularly well, but I guess the stats say we shot it OK,” Moore said.
Marissa Mackins scored 22 points, Tiffany Tolbert added 17 points and Erin Jones had 10 for North Florida.
Boyd scored six points in the game-opening 14-5 run. Cunane’s first basket of the season was a first-quarter 3-pointer.
Cunane, a junior center, reached the 1,000-point mark for her career with 12 first-half points, though she didn’t score after the break.
The game without fans other than a sprinkling of family members felt awkward for players and coaches.
”I’m glad we got to play in an actual game,” Cunane said. ”We definitely have a lot of film to watch.”
N.C. State won its 18th consecutive season opener. The Ospreys fell to 3-13 in openers since becoming a Division I program.
North Florida: It was largely a rough outing for a veteran North Florida team. Four players have at least 34 career starts. The Ospreys were picked to finish third in Atlantic Sun for its best spot in that preseason coaches’ poll in six seasons under Gibbs.
N.C. State: The Wolfpack showed the kind of offensive balance that has aided the program’s recent rise with four players posting double-figure point totals. All 12 players who entered the game scored.
”I think we’ve got a lot of people who can score the ball and make plays,” Moore said.
Last season, four N.C. State players averaged more than nine points per game.
MAKING IT DIFFICULT
North Florida senior Jazz Bond is the Atlantic Sun Conference’s Preseason Player of the Year, but she had trouble getting untracked in the opener. Bond, a forward who averaged 13.6 last season, was just 1-for-3 from the field at the half while making her 51st consecutive start.
Bond finished with three points on 1-for-7 shooting. Boyd, a sophomore making her first career start, was the primary N.C. State defender on Bond.
”They did a really good job being physical with Jazz,” Gibbs said. ”She wasn’t able to get established inside and they did a really good job rotating to her and limiting her rhythm looks.”
TAKING A ”STAND”
N.C. State players knelt during the national anthem, with staff members standing.
Crutchfield said players wanted to do something to express themselves on injustice issues.
”I think everybody has to make (their own) decision and I’ll support it either way,” Moore said of the players’ action. ”That was what was on their hearts.”
Among the North Florida team and staff, only five players remained in the arena for the playing of the anthem.
”We have a group that has decided to be very active in their advocacy for change,” Gibbs said. ”As a program we want to create an environment where they are empowered to freely express themselves and that was how they chose to do so.”
North Florida: Visits Miami on Saturday for its second game against an ACC opponent to open the season.
NC State: Home against Radford on Sunday before a visit to top-ranked South Carolina next week.