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NC State Women's Basketball

LOCKER ROOM REPORT: Third-Ranked Wolfpack Down Tar Heels in Chapel Hill

January 30, 2022

NC State head coach Wes Moore and guard Kai Crutchfield met with the media after the No. 3 Wolfpack's 66-58 road win at rival North Carolina.

Crutchfield led the Pack’s offense with 16 points on 6-for-11 shooting from the floor, 4-for-7 from three-point range. She also added two assists and two rebounds against the Tar Heels.

NOTE: Click the video above to watch the press conference.

Wes Moore

Opening Statement

North Carolina has a lot of talent, and we knew it was going to be a challenge. I think they were undefeated at home. We knew it wouldn’t be easy. The first half was tough. They knocked down some big shots, but I’m proud of the players being able to hang in there, keeping it within six at halftime. In the third quarter, I loved the way we came out. We were confident. We were aggressive. We got Elissa [Cunane] a lot of touches, and she finished well. I thought Kai really hit the big shots in the fourth quarter. We had a little trouble with the press — we’ve got some stuff to work on there — but I thought the veterans settled it down some. Again, it’s a great win on the road against a really talented team. We’re excited.

NC State has lost here with a top-10 ranking in the last two seasons, and you started this game with a deficit early. What did you like about the maturity of the team that helped settle the game down in a tough environment?

They’ve got a lot of talent over there, and they give out scholarships, too. It’s tough when you come here. A week or two ago, I know they were ranked, so they’re right there. It’s what we talked about at halftime. We’ve got to play a little more aggressive. At the half, we both had 11 field goals, but they’d shot 10 free throws, and we shot four. That’s because they were the aggressor, and we were on our heels. That was a little disappointing considering we have all these graduate students and seniors who’ve been through the wars. We played an unbelievable non-conference schedule, and we should be prepared for a moment like that. I’m disappointed in the first half, but I couldn’t be prouder of the third quarter. I thought they came out and believed they could get it done, and they were able to turn the momentum around.

How critical was it to hold Deja Kelly to zero field goals?

Well, Kai did a great job, and the whole team tried to give her help on picks on the ball. Part of it, too, is that you just have a day like that where it doesn’t go down for you. I think it’s a combination of things. She’s a great player. Most of the time, she’s going to hit those shots. Part of it was Kai’s defense. Part of it was the way people helped on pick-on-the-ball situations. Part of it was maybe her shot just didn’t go down. It happens to everybody.

Did you feel like you had better side-to-side ball movement in the second half?

Yeah, we were pleased in the third period. I thought we swung the ball well. We were trying to get the ball inside to Elissa, and she did a great job of getting seals when we would swing the ball. Carolina does a great job, especially on the pick-and-roll. They really do a good job of their wings pinching in near the paint. You’ve got to recognize that. I thought our passes weren’t crisp enough in the first half. We’d throw a pretty soft lob pass, and they were able to close out and recover from helping. We talked about putting more zip on the passes and having the confidence to put some heat on it to make it harder for them to recover and give Elissa the opportunity to get the seal. It helps when you knock down a few shots, too. That doesn’t hurt any.

How are you coaching to the stretch of three games in five days? What are your expectations?

Well, they’d rather play than practice. Tomorrow, we’re going to take it short, definitely not over an hour and 15 minutes or so to try and introduce the Notre Dame scout and the things we need to do against them offensively. It’ll be long enough to get some shots up, go over the scouting report and those type of things, and get out of there. It’s a night game, so that gives us a little more time to recover. Like I said, they’d rather play. I know there’s the travel involved, but in the conference tournament, you’re hoping to play three games in three days. We’ve got to look at it that way, and hopefully we’ll be excited about the opportunity.

Was getting buckets inside and in transition a point of emphasis at halftime?

I told Raina [Perez] and Diamond [Johnson], “If I see you walking it up the floor, I’m going to sub.” We’ve got to run. We’ve got to push the ball, and I thought we did a great job of that in the third period. I thought we got out, and our posts ran a little bit, and our guards got down the floor. Again, that’s what Carolina does a good job of. They score in transition really well, so we needed to balance that out by getting transition buckets ourselves. The transition was big as was getting Elissa touches.

How valuable is it to have a veteran like Crutchfield who’s capable of going off when needed and has the presence of mind to take over?

Kai’s always shot a high percentage. A lot of times, she’s drawing the defensive assignment on the other team’s best scorer on the perimeter, and that takes something out of her. She’s just unselfish. She shares the ball and makes the extra pass, but when we need it, she comes up big. I thought that was the difference in the game. When it seemed like the gap was dangerous, she hit the big shot to give us a little breathing room.

Kai Crutchfield

What was said at halftime that led to the scoring spurt at the start of the third quarter?

Just to play how NC State plays. There were some things that we could have done better in the first half, but we got our things together and turned it around. The coaches stress the importance of playing as a team for 40 minutes straight, and we’re trying to work our way closer to that every game.

What was defending Deja Kelly like? What makes her difficult to defend? What were the keys to defending her?

She’s a great player. I’ll say that first. Also, I needed to trust in my teammates, make sure that I read the ball screens well, and know my teammates were right behind me in order to help. Again, she’s a great player, and it was a tough challenge.

How much confidence do you have to step up and knock down the shots in the clutch situations?

It’s those things that your teammates and the coaching staff have confidence in you, and it’s about making sure I get in the gym and get extra shots up and knowing I’ve hit those shots a thousand times in my lifetime. I’ve played basketball for a while now, so knowing I’ve hit those shots before and my teammates giving me an extra boost give me the extra confidence.

Was the difference in the first and second half just shots going down, or were there adjustments made to give the team better shots?

I would say it’s a little bit of everything: execution on offense and defense and playing how NC State plays. Yes, we hit more shots in the second half, but we also turned it up on the defensive end as well.

How interesting and fun is it to navigate this three-game stretch in five days?

A lot of ice baths, I’d say, also making sure we stay focused, especially on the scout. Having three games in a week is a tough challenge, and I know we’re willing to take on that challenge, but we need to make sure we stay focused and stay locked in all the time.

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