November 14, 2022 

ACC Notebook: At N.C. State, Wes Moore still tinkering with roles

Sights and sounds, results from the weekend

RALEIGH, N.C. — After graduating four starters from last season’s team that won its third-straight ACC women’s basketball title, N.C. State coach Wes Moore is figuring out where three transfers fit in.

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He’s been impressed with South Carolina transfer Saniya Rivers. She has been first off the bench in each of the Wolfpack’s first three games of the season, playing a bit of point guard and off the ball as a wing. Often, it feels like Rivers – a 6’1 sophomore – can get to the rim whenever she wants.

“I think she’s fitting in really well. She has unbelievable vision,” Moore said of Rivers. “She’s really good at finding people. At the point position, she’s added a lot. We’re fortunate to have her in that role.”

In the Wolfpack’s win over Elon, Rivers led the team in rebounding and passing with seven boards and four assists. The sample size so far is small, but she could be the latest N.C. State talent to win the ACC’s Sixth Player of the Year award – following in the footsteps of Diamond Johnson and Jada Boyd.

It would be an understatement to say that Johnson, the lead point guard on the roster, has been impressed by Rivers. And she doesn’t mind relinquishing the primary ball-handling duties when Rivers is on the court.

“If I need to move to the two or whatever, it’s good to have another point guard, so they can’t really lock in on me,” Johnson said. “It’s just a relief. She’s good. I like her, for sure. She’s stepping into the role pretty good.”

But questions remain on N.C. State’s depth chart in the post. Specifically, where and when Maryland transfer Mimi Collins and Florida State transfer River Baldwin will play.

Collins played a total of 55 minutes in N.C. State’s three games so far this season. She’s tallied 21 points on 7-for-18 shooting and has 13 rebounds, two assists, three steals and two blocks.

At Maryland last season, Collins did a little bit of everything. She mostly played as a power forward but was featured some at center and as a small forward, too, as the Terps battled various injuries. And indeed, she’s a versatile player who has a career 3-point shooting percentage above 38% and averages 4.7 rebounds per game.

Still, Moore hasn’t quite figured out where she fits best. He had her mostly working to be a four in the preseason, but he hopes to play the 6’3 grad transfer at the five too, behind starter Camille Hobby.

“It’s been a little bit different for [Collins] in that we do probably have a lot of structure. We want to run as much as anybody, but when it is more of a half-court situation, we want to be able to have everybody on the same page. So, that’s been a little bit of a challenge for her,” Moore said. “Here in the last week or so, we’ve started trying to play her in both spots, the four and the five. We’re trying to figure out what we’re going to do depth-wise behind Camille Hobby. So we’re looking at all options, and [Collins] may be somebody that can swing back and forth between the four and the five.

“And again, still waiting for River Baldwin and Sophie Hart to maybe step up.”

On paper, a lot of folks from the outside looking in may have penciled in Baldwin to be Hobby’s primary backup – or even challenge her for the starting job. The latter didn’t happen. Hobby has locked up the starting center role and has flourished so far this season.

Baldwin started 18 games at Florida State last season as a junior and averaged a career-best 6.1 points and 4.6 rebounds per game. The 6’5 Alabama native was a McDonald’s All-American in high school.

Moore made that comment about Baldwin and Hart stepping up after the Wolfpack’s Thursday win over Elon. To that point, Baldwin had played just 17 minutes across two blowout wins over mid-major opponents and had a total of nine rebounds and just six points on 2-for-10 shooting.

But Baldwin responded in N.C. State’s win on Sunday over Mount St. Mary’s – a tournament team last season. In 12 minutes, she made four of five shots for eight points and also grabbed six rebounds.

“It’s getting better. It’s just tough. You get a player like that that has a ton of experience – three years – but she’s still new in your program. And so, she’s trying to learn the system, trying to fit in,” Moore said of Baldwin. “We still got work to do.”

Hart is the other option to provide N.C. State with some depth behind Hobby at the five. The 6’5 sophomore from Farmington, Minnesota, didn’t play significant minutes last season – just 4.4 per game in 20 appearances – but has 10 points, eight boards and two blocks in 23 minutes of action this season.

If Baldwin and Hart can play with consistency in reserve roles in the post, that should bode well for N.C. State against teams with larger frontcourts.

N.C. State sophomore guard Saniya Rivers plays against Elon on Nov. 10, 2022 in Reynolds Coliseum in Raleigh, N.C. (Mitchell Northam / The Next)

Notes …

  • Virginia Tech’s Cayla King is now seventh all-time in Hokies’ history with 156 made 3-pointers. King shot 9-for-16 from behind the arc in the Hokies’ opener on her way to scoring a career-high 33 points. On Friday, she had eight points in a win over Bucknell.
  • The 62 points Duke scored in the first half in its win over Charleston Southern are the most the Blue Devils have had in an opening half since 2011.
  • Duke coach Kara Lawson said this about sophomore Lee Volker: “Lee is someone that I can count on every day. She’s like the sun: She’s going to come up and she is going to set, and I know what I’m going to get from her every single day. She’s disciplined, she’s in the right place on offense and defense, she knows when to cut, she knows when to space, she can pass, she can shoot it, and then defensively she’s really versatile for us. She can guard a number of positions and she is very good in the press as well … Lee impacts winning.”
  • Hailey Van Lith had her second career double-double for Louisville in its win over IUPUI, tallying 12 points and 10 boards. Also in that game, Mykasa Robinson recorded multiple steals in a single game for the 38th time in her career.
  • In UNC’s season-opening win over Jackson State, Kennedy Todd-Williams notched a career-high 20 points. Meanwhile, fellow junior Alyssa Ustby had a double-double with 19 points and 10 rebounds in just 19 minutes of action. Paulina Paris – the lone newcomer for the Tar Heels this season – scored 13 points in her collegiate debut.
  • In her first start since March 10, 2019, Channise Lewis tallied 11 points, four rebounds and three assists in 26 minutes in her Pitt debut – a 56-41 victory over Coppin State.
  • N.C. State’s win on Sunday over Mount St. Mary’s was a historic one for Aziaha James and Jakia Brown-Turner. James scored a career-best 19 points, while Brown-Turner passed the 1,000-points-scored mark for her career, becoming the 37th Wolfpack player to do so.
  • In Notre Dame’s win over Cal on Saturday in St. Louis, Missouri – which was the first women’s college basketball game ever to air live on NBC – Dara Mabrey tied her sister Marina for the Irish program record for career 3-pointers made.
  • Here’s what Louisville coach Jeff Walz said after the Cardinals’ tight five-point win over Belmont on Sunday: “We are going to continue to play good teams. Our league is tough and you cannot take a night off. You have to come in with a mentality that it is going to be a battle and that is why I scheduled this game here. We have a pretty darn good schedule that is going to challenge us and hopefully get us prepared for the ACC season.”

Written by Mitchell Northam

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