The No. 18 North Carolina women’s basketball escaped an upset against winless East Tennessee State Sunday, but there was little Coach Sylvia Hatchell was proud of after the Tar Heels were outrebounded for the first time this season in a 93-77 victory.
Laura Broomfield, UNC’s leading rebounder before Sunday, watched from the bench due to a foot injury, and the Tar Heels (7-1) struggled mightily on the boards as a result.
The Tar Heels problems under the rim translated into 20 ETSU points off 23 offensive rebounds.
Broomfield may play as soon as Dec. 18 against South Carolina, but the team will be cautious to ensure it will have her available for ACC play.
Hatchell said that it was not Broomfield’s absence alone that caused the team’s struggles.
“There’s no doubt that we miss her and she definitely makes a difference with the rebounding,” Hatchell said. “But defense is just a pride and commitment that I’m not seeing right now.”
In the next month, the Tar Heels will also benefit from the rebounding presence of 6-foot-6 center Waltiea Rolle, who has yet to play this season. She will return to practice Dec. 27 after giving birth to a baby girl Nov. 8.
Hatchell had stressed to her team earlier in the season that it would have to focus on boxing out for rebounds, as opposed to relying on its athleticism, but senior center Chay Shegog thought the Tar Heels had the same problem against ETSU.
“I think a lot of people were just trying to outjump the other team, but when you have an athletic team like that too, you really have to focus on the fundamentals,” Shegog said.
Shegog tied her career-high 26 points for the second straight game and is quickly developing into the leader of the youthful Tar Heel squad, which started two freshmen Sunday.
The lead changed hands five times during the course of the game with UNC securing the lead for good with 16:15 left in the second half.
Junior Krista Gross provided the spark UNC needed to finally pull away from the Lady Bucs, after registering only two points and two rebounds in the first half.
Gross scored a transition bucket and was fouled, allowing her to convert the three-point play, and less than a minute later, she added a 3-pointer to extend UNC’s lead to 55-47, UNC’s largest lead to that point.
She finished with a double-double, collecting 14 points and 10 rebounds.
Gross’s offensive success did not keep her from dwelling on what she thought was a poor defensive game by the Tar Heels.
“We played some pretty bad defense…our transition defense was almost embarrassing,” Gross said. “Everybody just had to focus and remember the fundamentals of how we do transition defense.”
The Lady Bucs would only come as close as four points to the Tar Heels for the remainder of the game.
Even though the outcome was favorable for North Carolina, Hatchell voiced her displeasure with the way her team closed out the first-semester schedule.
“We haven’t practiced that much this week, you’re in exams, and all that stuff, those are excuses,” Hatchell said. “And there are no excuses”
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