BLACKSBURG, VA – After the first half, the North Carolina’s women’s basketball team could have counted itself lucky to only be losing by four to Virginia Tech.
In the second half, the Tar Heels had no such luck.
UNC found itself on the short end of a 20-6 run to start the second half and never recovered, eventually losing 79-64.
“I substituted five-at-a-time and everything else trying to get something going and find something that would make a difference out there,” coach Sylvia Hatchell said. “That’s part of the problem. I’m playing all these kids to see who’s going to step up.”
UNC, laden with nine freshmen and sophomores, did not know how to respond to such a run, and for the rest of the game sat about 15 points behind the Hokies.
“We shot terrible,” Hatchell said. “We took a lot of shots, we rebounded well, but a lot of those were the missed shots.”
For the entire game, UNC could not put the ball in the basket. Even on free throws, the Tar Heels shot an uncharacteristic 12-24. The team finished the game 24-72 from the field.
On the offensive end, the Tar Heels grabbed 29 rebounds, but even though UNC dominated the offensive glass, it only managed six more second-chance points than the Hokies — mainly due to its inability to score at all.
The missed shots gave North Carolina no opportunities to set up their press, and its halfcourt defense struggled because of it.
“Our defense wasn’t very good, and some of that is because we weren’t scoring,” Hatchell said. “When you score, you play better defense.”
The Tar Heels worked from behind for virtually the entire night. While they were only trailing by four at halftime, the game only saw one tie and three lead changes.
They also lost focus at times, as two different Tar Heels turned the ball over immediately after a Hokie score on inbounding violations.
The Hokies started two seniors and two juniors, and their experience showed, as they refused to get rattled when UNC took an early 16-8 lead.
Instead, they rattled off an 11-1 run of their own after a Virginia Tech timeout.
Senior Cetera DeGraffenreid struggled all game, shooting 1-11 from the field, but even more uncharacteristically, she paired three assists with five turnovers.
DeGraffenreid struggled to the point where she missed a wide-open, uncontested layup with seconds remaining in the game.
Her backcourt mate, Italee Lucas, also could not find the mark, misfiring on 10 of her 13 shots.
“I really don’t know (what happened),” Hatchell said. “They are both outstanding players. Cetera’s 1-11 and Italee’s 3-13 — we’re not going to win many games when that happens.”
The Tar Heels cut the lead down to 10 with two minutes and 23 seconds left, but a quick four point Virginia Tech burst all but precluded UNC’s comeback attempt.
The win marks the Hokies’ first victory over a top-10 ranked opponent since 1998, and their first at home since 1995.
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