RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina State made its season debut in the top 10, and the Wolfpack certainly looked the part — even if their coach says they’re not yet a finished product.
Kiara Leslie scored a season-high 24 points and 10th-ranked N.C. State beat Hampton 83-51 on Wednesday.
Aislinn Konig added 16 points and Grace Hunter had 12 for the Wolfpack (9-0) while Leslie hit a career-best five 3-pointers. They shot 49 percent, hit 10 3s and built a 41-28 rebounding advantage in their first game as a top-10 team since 2014.
Coach Wes Moore quipped that the ranking meant “very little.”
“The value for me is, you’ve got that rolling across the ticker every day you play, and recruits and their parents and everybody is seeing your name across that scroll,” Moore said. “I love that. But the other side of that coin is, you’re going to get everybody’s ‘A’ game. And I don’t know that we’re there.
“We’ve got a whole lot of warts that we’ve got to get removed if we’re going to be anywhere near that type of team,” he added.
Laren Vanarsdale scored 15 points, Ashley Bates had 14 and Kaylah Lupoe finished with 10 to lead Hampton (3-3), but only two other players scored. The Pirates shot 32 percent yet pulled within 13 points on Lashayla Wright-Ponder’s long jumper with about 2½ minutes left in the third quarter.
N.C. State countered with a 21-3 run that pushed the Wolfpack’s lead into the 30s. Konig started the burst with a 3 and Kai Crutchfield followed that with a layup in transition. Hunter’s layup with under 5 minutes left made it 73-42.
“Having people that we can count on to make shots makes it really easy for us, because we don’t have to think about if we have to get it to them a certain way,” Konig said. “We can trust that they’re going to do the right thing with the ball.”
Hampton: The Big South Conference newcomers won six Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference championships from 2010-17 and are no stranger to the ACC, visiting Duke three times for NCAA Tournament games and beating North Carolina in the regular season last year. But taking on loaded N.C. State was a tall order for a team that’s adjusting to a new league and has six freshmen and four transfers.
“I thought we played them tough the second and third quarters,” coach David Six said. “We’ve just got to have sustainable effort.”
N.C. State: The Wolfpack kept alive their best start in nearly two decades and remained perfect in nonconference home games since 2015. Their roll could continue for quite a while. They don’t play a team currently ranked until Feb. 13, when they visit No. 15 Syracuse five days before playing host to defending national champion Notre Dame.
The Wolfpack haven’t started a season this well since the 1999-2000 team opened with 14 straight wins and climbed to No. 3 in the national rankings under late Hall of Fame coach Kay Yow. Moore no doubt hopes this season has a better ending — that team lost its final five games and went one-and-done in both the ACC and NCAA tournaments.
LESLIE’S BIG DAY
Leslie hit eight of her 12 shots, giving her season bests in both field goals and shooting percentage. She finished three points shy of her career high in scoring, set last season in the Sweet 16 against Mississippi State.
This game tipped off at 10:30 a.m. as part of Education Day festivities. The stands at Reynolds Coliseum were filled with thousands of elementary school students.
Hampton: Plays host to Mid-Atlantic Christian on Dec. 15.
N.C. State: Visits Georgetown on Saturday.