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The Daily Tar Heel

Defending champ Connecticut handles UNC

All-American Maya Moore poured in 26 points en route to a double-double for the Huskies. She went 10-for-18 and pulled down 10 boards.
All-American Maya Moore poured in 26 points en route to a double-double for the Huskies. She went 10-for-18 and pulled down 10 boards.

Their calendars had been marked for some time now.

Beating the record-breaking University of Connecticut women’s basketball team in front of a home crowd would have been a season highlight for the North Carolina women’s basketball team, as well as a feather in the cap for a program rebounding from a down year last season.

But Monday night in Carmichael Arena, the dream of an upset was too good to be true, and the No. 10 Tar Heels fell to No. 2 UConn 83-57.

“I really thought we would give them a better game,” UNC coach Sylvia Hatchell said. “I thought we matched up with them better this year than we have the last couple years. I think if we could have made some shots early on that would have helped us a lot.”

The Tar Heels started each half Monday night in a similar fashion. The Huskies jumped to an 8-0 lead at the beginning of the game. After intermission, UConn scored 12 points before North Carolina got on the board in the second half.

And unfortunately for the Tar Heels, each period also ended in the same way: with UNC trailing the seemingly unstoppable Connecticut squad.

Forwards Chay Shegog and Waltiea Rolle were the bright spots for the Tar Heels in the first half, and the two led UNC with a combined 17 points in the opening 20 minutes.

The Tar Heels held their own in the first half against a team that isn’t used to losing, and a crucial block from UNC junior Laura Broomfield in the final seconds kept the visiting Huskies from scoring 50 first-half points. Trailing by just 12 at intermission, a second-half comeback seemed feasible to Hatchell.

“(In the) first half I’m thinking wow, they were like a well-oiled machine out there,” Hatchell said. “(I thought), you know, they’ll cool off a little bit in the second half. But they really got after it.”

An unfaltering UConn offense led by Maya Moore and Tiffany Hayes made it hard for the Tar Heels to keep their opponent off the board. Moore and Hayes combined for 55 points, and the Huskies shot 48.5 percent from the floor compared to UNC’s 30.7 field goal percentage.

“If we dwell in it and don’t correct our mistakes, then we’re definitely going to see this at the end of our season,” Breland said. “But if we learn from it and say okay, this is what I did wrong and take responsibility for it then at the end of the season this will be a learning experience for us.”

Italee Lucas led UNC offensively with 13 points and two assists. Tierra Ruffin-Pratt came off the bench and gobbled up seven offensive rebounds to lead all players.

With a win against the Tar Heels, the Huskies are now on a 95-1 run and on track for their third consecutive national championship.

For that reason, Monday’s game wasn’t all bad for the Tar Heels.

Despite losing only its second game of the season, the North Carolina women’s basketball team got the opportunity to compete against and learn from some of the best in the sport.

And that’s the upside to a disappointment that Hatchell simply couldn’t deny.

“Except for losing, I really enjoy playing them,” Hatchell said. “We learn a lot. We actually try to run some of the things that they run. I love how they play.”

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