RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – Victories continue to accumulate for Kiara Leslie and the eighth largest state in North Carolina.
The women's Wolfpack are the last undefeated team in Division I – not the traditional female powers of Connecticut, nor the reigning national champion Notre Dame, nor the coach Mike Krzyzewski and the new recruits of Duke.
The state of North Carolina has its highest ranking among the top 25 in the past two decades and the best start in its history, with Leslie's overall improvement in the lead.
"We do not celebrate it excessively," Leslie said in an interview with The Associated Press. "Yes, we know we are No. 8 and unbeaten. But (coach Wes Moore) is doing a great job in keeping us humble in practice and trying to help us improve what we need to do. "
17th in preseason, the state of North Carolina (18-0 and 5-0 off the Atlantic coast) suspended for eight weeks in eighth place, behind the same teams defeated in a poll with a slight move to Mountain peak. This is the program's highest program since being eighth in November 2001 with the recent arrival of Kay Yow, a Hall of Fame member.
The former best start of N.C. State was 14-0 in 1999-2000.
"It shows that they show up every night and are ready to play and that they may not neglect someone or take a party," Moore said. "So, that says a lot about this group."
Success begins with defending and hitting the glass. The NC State ranks fourth nationally in defense in terms of goals (.328) and rebound margin (plus-13), second for least fouls per game (12.3), and 21st place in shooting percentage (.463) between Thursday and Clemson.
Leslie, a 6-foot wing and sister of former Wolfpack male player, C.J. Leslie, is in her second year in Raleigh as a Maryland graduate. She has an average of 15 points and eight rebounds on average for her team and ranks second for aid (3.1). These numbers, as well as her shooting percentages and 3 points, are all up from last year, not least because Leslie has almost doubled her average aid.
"In the basketball game," said Leslie, "scoring is not the only thing to do."
Defensively, Leslie draws regularly the most difficult match between two perimeters. She leads the Wolfpack by block (17) and flies (24), driven by a simple motivation: "I do not like to be scored.
Junior guard Aislinn Konig said Leslie's defensive advantage allows teammates to focus on their own tasks without fearing Leslie needs constant rotating help.
"She does not want to let anyone get vaccinated, ever," said Konig. "We face coaches and often, coach Moore has to tell him to relax a bit. So, I think it's definitely that we come every day and we are not ready to give an inch. "
Leslie's development helped Wolfpack overcome significant injury problems. The team lost playmaker Kaila Ealey following a pre-season knee injury, and then Charlotte transferred Grace Hunter (an average of 14.6 points to her team) to a knee injury. end to the season, suffered on January 3 against Duke.
Leslie responded by scoring 31 points at Boston College in the next career high, then 25 points with seven rebounds in Sunday's overtime home win over Virginia Tech.
"I do not think it should be a one-man show," Leslie said. "So, when someone falls, I think everyone should bear it. And if it's me who has to take it even more in this game, then I'll do it. "
Everyone on the list will have to do it, considering what lies ahead.
The challenges are also an opportunity for the Wolfpack to rise even higher in the poll.
The state of North Carolina, which ranks 47th in the calendar, draws its best win against Michigan's 23rd state in November, before the Spartans standings. But there are upcoming trips to Florida's No. 22 states (February 7), 13 (Syracuse (February 13) and February 4 (February 28) in Louisville (Feb. 28), as well as a visit from Our Lady (the 1 st 18).
Until where will the Wolfpack be largely centered on Leslie's play.
"She just worked so hard to keep improving," Moore said. "I think at the end of high school, people probably said he was an excellent athlete, but they were not sure of his abilities, but certainly not his reach on his shot.
"I mean, she has been a boon to us for the past two years. It's amazing what she did. "