The North Carolina women’s basketball team extended its win streak to five after an assertive victory over Presbyterian College that saw the Tar Heels score a season-high 91 points and make a season-high 12 shots from behind the arc.
Redshirt junior Paris Kea led the team with 23 points with a career-high five 3-pointers, while first-year forward Jaelynn Murray was perfect from the floor, scoring 10 points on 4-4 shooting.
This win streak is North Carolina’s largest in over two seasons, but head coach Sylvia Hatchell is expecting bigger and better things from her team.
“We need some longer win streaks than that,” Hatchell said. “I think these kids are gonna do that, so we’re just going to keep working hard.”
The Tar Heels led in almost every category, including points in the paint (36 to 12), bench points (27 to 9), second chance points (12 to 5) and points off turnovers (23 to 17).
The team played sloppily at times, including a stretch in the third quarter when it scored just five points in around six minutes. Turnovers plagued the team the entire game: four players had four or more turnovers for a total of 23, which tied UNC's season high set against Colorado on Nov. 12.
Janelle Bailey struggled to stay on the court with foul trouble — fouling out for the third time this season — but not before scoring 11 points on 4-8 shooting to go along with six rebounds.
“(The officials) are saying she’s hooking,” Hatchell said about the situation. “But I’d rather have to back her off a little bit than have to light the fire and get her being physical in there.”
North Carolina firmly held onto the lead, though, because of a dominant second quarter. UNC outscored Presbyterian, 26-11, and saw Kea go perfect from the field and score nine points.
Outside of a few concerns, the Tar Heels showed off several promising aspects of their game that should help them as they enter ACC play at the end of December.
Murray had the best game of her career and looked confident throughout the entire game, despite not starting for the first time this season.
“I just go to the open spot,” Murray said. “If the play’s not run for me then I just go to the open spot, and if it doesn’t work out then I get the ball. Then I can just score or look for my teammates to score.”
Murray made confident cuts to get open shots at the rim and has developed into a promising multi-positional defender who can make the open pass and rebound.
Several bench players saw extended time this game as well, even before the score warranted pulling the starters. Sharpshooting first-year guard Leah Church got the first start of her career this game, scoring six points on 2-4 shooting to go with two assists.
Church got the nod to start after meeting a standard that Hatchell set for the team.
“With the grading thing that we do on rebounds, they have to have a certain percentage of not missing box outs,” Hatchell explained. Murray and backup guard Jocelyn Jones both missed the cutoff.
Backups Naomi Van Nes and Olivia Smith both played a season high in minutes, getting looks early in the second quarter for the first time this season.
“It’s nice to have some players to put in the game, it really is,” Hatchell said. “It's nice to have some athletic players and some kids that we can put in there, and we were able to give Paris and Jamie a little bit of a rest which helps.”
And finally, in the final minutes of the game, Liz Roberts made her first career field goal, a 3-pointer at the 2:31 mark of the fourth quarter. The shot put North Carolina up 86-52, forcing Presbyterian to call a timeout, and allowing Roberts’ teammates to swarm her in celebration.
The team had plenty to celebrate, ending the game with its biggest win this season in terms of point differential (35). North Carolina looks to extend its win streak Sunday against Furman at Carmichael Arena at 2 p.m.