Story Poster
Wes Moore
Kai Crutchfield
Jakia Brown-Turner
NC State Women's Basketball

LOCKER ROOM REPORT: Second-Ranked Wolfpack Hangs On Against Hokies

January 24, 2021

No. 2 NC State head coach Wes Moore, senior guard Kai Crutchfield, and sophomore wing Jakia Brown-Turner met with the media via Zoom after the Wolfpack's 89-87 win over Virginia Tech Sunday afternoon.

NOTE: Click on each thumbnail to watch each press conference in the player above.

Wes Moore

Opening statement

“Virginia Tech’s a team where their conference record is not where I’m sure they’d want it to be, but it’s so misleading because they’re so talented. They’ve got a post player [Elizabeth Kitley] in there that’s one of the best players in the league. Obviously, she scored 30 on us today. As a coach, I’ve got to do a better job trying to figure out a way to help them a little bit on her. Then they’ve got three guards that all shoot 40-something percent from the three-point line. They’re just a tough matchup. I’m very disappointed that we gave up that many points, but I’m so proud, on the other hand, of the way our kids fought and hung in there after not playing for 21 days to come back, and then without your leading scorer and six-five All-American. I thought they showed a lot of grit and found a way to get it done. We’ve got to turn around and play them again Thursday at their place, and we’re going to have to try to figure some things out between now and then. Again, I’m really proud of our players and the way they competed today." 

How much did the 21-day layoff hurt you? What was the biggest difference you saw from the team? Also, what did you tell them in that last timeout?

“This team believes that they can get it done. We’ve had some big comebacks this year. We’ve had some games where we pulled out at the end, and so I think that helps your confidence. But I don’t know. Twenty-one days is a long time without a game, and some of that, we had half the team in quarantine, so they could come in individually and do some things. Then we’d have five that could actually practice. It’s tough, and I’m so proud of them to be able to overcome that. Obviously, we miss Elissa Cunane. She’s a great player and our post presence inside which would have helped us offensively but also defensively against someone like Kitley. We found a way to get it done, and like I said, it’s going to be a really big challenge, going on the road and playing these guys again, but hopefully after playing one, we can get a little bit more back in rhythm."

Can you touch on Cunane’s status?

“It’s COVID protocol, and we’ll probably be without her for another one, I would imagine. It’s a challenge."

Is it assuring to see the team pick up where they left off?

“We’ve got some players that, at crunch time, can make some plays. Kayla Jones hit a big three for us, and then she knocked down a couple of big free throws. I probably should have made sure she got the ball again on the last one. She’s been our glue all year long. She and Camille Hobby were coming out of protocol, so I decided to go with the people who had been practicing the most, but I knew they were going to get in there and play a lot. I think Kayla especially struggled in the first few minutes she was in the game, but in the second half she settled down and played really well for us. Virginia Tech’s got a very talented team, and they’re well coached, so we’re going to take this win. I know it was a comeback win and all that, but we’ll take it and hope that maybe getting this game under our belt will help those ones that have been in protocol and recovering to get back to full strength."

What did you start doing better to be able to take control during the 16-0 run toward the end?

“I don’t know. We sprinkled the press in a little bit. We went with a small lineup and tried to switch about everything. [Virginia Tech is] so good coming off screens and handoffs and knocking down threes. [Cayla] King really hurt us in the first half, and [Aisha] Sheppard does what she does, leading the country in three-pointers made. With Kitley, we were trying to get around her some. We didn’t do a good job of that. A couple of times, we helped up off of her which you definitely don’t want to do that. This’ll be good to have this film and be able to break it down and look at it. Like I said, I’ve got so much respect for the players, the talent, on that team and the job that Coach [Kenny] Brooks does. We’re fortunate to get out of here with the win, especially coming back like we did. It was touch-and-go for sure."

Who do you feel stepped up to fill in the void left behind by Cunane?

“Kayla Jones. She’s just coming out of protocol this week. Jakia Brown-Turner, in the first half, kept us in the game and did a great job. I thought Kai Crutchfield had a great game for us as well. She put up 20 points and did a really good job defensively. That’s the thing. You can’t fill an Elissa Cunane void with one player. Camille Hobby and Jada Rice did solid jobs for us. Late in the game, we were behind and had to go small, so we went with Jada Boyd. They all contributed, but we miss Elissa. We know it’s going to be a great challenge when we have to go up there Thursday night."

Can you expand more on Kayla Jones being a "glue player"?

“The South Carolina game was a great example. She hit a big three that put us in great shape in that game. At Boston College, we were down 16 with 6-1/2 minutes left, and she made some big plays on the defensive end. She just does so many things for us. She really helps us in transition, too. When she gets a rebound, she’ll take off with it and get us going. She does all the things. She rebounds, she defends, just the little things, and she keeps everybody focused, on track, and on the same page. She does a good job of making sure everybody knows what they’re doing. I couldn’t ask for a better leader, and what a year she’s having."

The No. 1 and No. 2 teams both won today by two points against unranked teams. What does this say about the strength of the conference?

“Virginia Tech’s record is so misleading. Obviously, they’ve got Elizabeth Kitley. I think she’s the third-leading scorer in the league. She may have moved up today with the job we did on her defensively; she may have climbed the ladder a little more. Sheppard, I think, is second in the league in scoring. All three of their starting guards are shooting 40 percent from the three-point line, and then you’ve got Kitley on the block. It’s crazy. Our goal is to try and hold people to 60 points in the game, and I looked up there at the end of the first quarter; we’d given up 24. Then in the third quarter, we gave up 28. It’s just amazing what they can do offensively. Also, you take Elissa Cunane out of the equation. That’s tough. That’s like taking Kitley out of Virginia Tech. It’s a big challenge right now, and we want to get her back as quick as we can. She’s in protocol, but she’s not feeling too bad. Hopefully, we’ll get her back soon."

Kai Crutchfield

How much did the 21-day layoff impact the team? What does it say about the team to be able to rally back and go on that 16-0 run late in the fourth quarter?

“I think we all used the break in a positive way. It’s difficult circumstances and unfortunate circumstances, but I think we did it to get out the kinks and everything and work on everything offensively and defensively as a team to focus on ourselves. We have fight. We’ve had fight. Just like the Boston College game, we fought to the end, and this game, it showed as well."

Can you take us through what the team went experienced during the late-game rally?

“It’s just one possession at a time. Coach talks about the little battles. Each play is a little battle. Each screen is a little battle. We just started to focus on dialing in and executing on defense, and offensively the shots will come. The defense turns into offense, and I feel like that showed itself in the fourth quarter."

Was there anything you sensed that it was out there ready to happen like that?

“We’re just playing basketball at this point. It’s already written at this point, and I feel like we went out and executed. We hit each person that was open, and they knocked down their open shots."

Did this compare to the Boston College comeback?

“Every game is different. We work on everything for each team specifically, and we just play our game. We can only control what we can control."

How different is the team without Cunane?

“Elissa’s a great player. It’ll be good to have. We’ll just let her rest and everything like that. Other than that, I’ll say she’s a great player, and we can’t wait to have her back."

Does Cunane’s absence allow the other players the chance to expand and grow their game and be a better team when she comes back?

“Elissa's a great player, but we also are a great team. Coach recruited us to come here for a reason. We all have our specialties, and we work on each other’s weaknesses. We’re a good team. We miss Elissa, she’s a great player, and we’re a great team as well."

Jakia Brown-Turner

What did it take for the team to go on that 16-0 run?

“We kicked up our defense. We started to press which caused them to take quick shots, so our defense definitely led to our offense?

Did Coach Moore say anything to you all during the timeout late in the fourth quarter?

“He said to stay urgent and be ready to defend so we could get steals and to be ready to make plays."

What was the most difficult part of being off for so long?

“It was just getting back in shape. We started practicing this week. There’s a difference between practice-shape and game-shape, so it took us a while to get back into the rhythm of running up and down the floor and playing against people who we don’t practice against everyday."

What does it say about this team’s determination and fight to come back after three weeks off, have Cunane out, and still get the win?

“We all knew that we had to come in ready to play, play hard, and be able to make plays for each other. Also, our teammates kept us motivated. For example, [Jones] kept talking to us the whole game, letting us know that we could do this and that we were still in this game."

There was a stretch where you, Jones, and Crutchfield all knocked down big three-pointers. Was there a difference in Virginia Tech’s defense, or was it just better shots that fell for you?

“We just took the shots that were open, and we were all in a rhythm, so we were just getting the ball to each other. We just had a good offensive run."

Were there any concerns about the season not resuming for you?

“Well, at first when things started to happen with the COVID situation, I was scared a little bit of catching it. We all stuck through it, and we’re back now, ready to play."

Can you describe what happens in those moments when you’re down by double digits? What does it mean for the resolve of this team?

“First, we were saying the whole time, ‘We’ve been here before. We’ve been down before.’ We knew that we could come back and stay motivated to play and get the game back."

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