UNC kept its strong offensive pace to open the second quarter. Cherry hit two jumpers, including one from three, and the Tar Heels went on a 12-0 run to lead 39-30 with five minutes left in the half.
But the Tar Heels struggled to close out the half and scored only two more points in the second quarter’s final five minutes. Syracuse regained its footing and slowly chipped away at UNC’s lead, finally drawing even at 41 right before the half, thanks to a slashing lay-up from Tiana Mangakahia.
The Orange regained their outside shooting in the game’s third quarter, hitting six-of-eight threes to seize a 66-62 lead heading into the fourth.
Syracuse’s outside shooters maintained their momentum in the final quarter, hitting three triples early on to extend its lead to 75-65 early in the fourth.
Cherry did what she could for UNC in the fourth. She hit a pair of threes and was fouled on a third attempt, hitting all three free throws.
But the Tar Heels couldn’t get the stops they needed and allowed the Orange four crucial offensive rebounds to both keep draining clock and add to their lead.
After Cherry rimmed out her final three point attempt at Carmichael with 47 seconds left, Syracuse closed out their 86-80 win with a pair of free throws.
Who stood out?
Janelle Bailey led the Tar Heels in points and rebounds with 25 and 12, respectively. The likely ACC Rookie of the Year has had issues with foul trouble all season, but managed to stay on the court for almost all of the game.
On her big night, Cherry didn’t fail to disappoint, scoring 23 points and hitting four 3-pointers. Cherry also added four steals defensively and calmed the young Tar Heels’ offense against Syracuse’s active press.
When was it decided?
The Orange’s trio of 3-pointers to start the fourth quarter put the game all but out of reach. Syracuse only made eight two-point baskets to complement their 20 threes.
After momentarily settling down the Orange shooting, UNC had possession, down six with fewer than two minutes left. But Cherry turned the ball over for the game’s final blow.
Why does it matter?
It was hard to miss the emotional impact on Cherry at the post-game press conference. The senior stayed with UNC’s program when many transferred due to NCAA allegations and teared up at her final home press conference while listening to Hatchell and Bailey talk about her contributions to the program.
The loss also marked the eighth consecutive loss for UNC, including four straight at home. With No. 20 Duke looming on Sunday, it’s possible that the Tar Heels will enter next week’s ACC Tournament on a nine-game skid.
Where do they play next?
The Tar Heels will finish off ACC regular season play at No. 20 Duke on Sunday. Tip-off at Cameron Indoor will be at 2 p.m.
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