UNC also struggled from the floor.
Stephanie Watts — the 2016 ACC Freshman of the Year and the Tar Heels’ leading scorer — took a while to come alive, shooting 2-of-11 in the first half.
It wasn’t until the middle of the fourth quarter when Watts snapped out of her funk, ending with a team-high 17 points.
“My team and my coaches always keep confidence in me,” Watts said. “I think my teammates did a really good job of finding me, setting screens and getting to the basket to help me do that.”
But junior guard Jamie Cherry was the steady force for her team early. She played 35 minutes, sitting mainly after she cut her left arm in the first quarter. She returned with a bandage, and later a sleeve.
Whenever the Tar Heels needed a spark, Cherry was the lighter. No matter what was needed — diving on the floor for a loose ball, taking a charge or finishing over a bigger defender on an important possession — she made it happen.
The veteran playmaker from Cove City, North Carolina, took control of the offense when her team was struggling to put the ball in the basket. She finished second on the team with 15 points and had a game-high six assists.
Her confidence in North Carolina’s perimeter shooting never wavered, despite the team’s first half troubles.
“I trust my teammates to the point that is unbelievable,” she said. “And I know that Steph and them are great shooters, so it is just a matter of them getting more shots up, and they will hit them.”
The game was played up-tempo throughout, a style Hatchell has employed since inheriting the program. Aided by veteran leadership during a first-half lull, the game plan worked.
“We want to wear the other team down and control the tempo,” Hatchell said. “Because you never know when one of these guys are going to start lighting it up.”