The North Carolina women’s basketball team exchanged shots with Gardner-Webb in its season opener, but it was the Bulldogs who landed the final blow.
No. 20 UNC (0-1) appeared on its way to an easy win before Gardner-Webb (1-0) stormed back to claim a 66-65 victory on the final shot of the game.
Following a closely contested first half, the Tar Heels found themselves down to unranked Gardner-Webb at the break after two quarters riddled with turnovers and poor shooting.
But North Carolina turned it on to start the third quarter, opening the half with a 12-2 run and claiming a 15-point advantage at the end of the quarter. UNC’s offense found its mark — shooting 66.7 percent in the period — but it was the defense that helped open up the lead, as Gardner-Webb managed only 11 points in the third quarter.
And after an offseason full of uncertainty, North Carolina looked all but sure to start its season undefeated.
But missed defensive assignments and foul trouble brought down the Tar Heels. Gardner-Webb knocked down four 3-pointers in the final quarter and held its own on defense to cut the deficit late.
But every time Gardner-Webb got close, UNC sophomore Jamie Cherry answered.
The guard put together a dominating performance — leading her team with 25 points and five assists — in an effort to subdue the Bulldogs' attack.
After Gardner-Webb took its first lead with 3:05 remaining, Cherry scored her team’s final seven points — including a go-ahead shot from well beyond the 3-point line with eight seconds remaining.
But the sophomore’s efforts were thwarted, as the Bulldogs scored on a driving layup with one second left to stun the Tar Heels.
"Jamie made the big shots at the end, and she wants the ball. Now, we’ve got to get more of them wanting the ball at the end." — Coach Sylvia Hatchell on Cherry’s performance down the stretch.
Senior forward Xylina McDaniel did not play in the Tar Heels' season opener due to a calf injury. McDaniel missed the final 24 games of the 2014-15 season with a torn Achilles.
Three numbers that matter
23.8: UNC struggled to convert from 3-point range, shooting 23.8 percent in the game. The Tar Heels went 5-21 from beyond the arc, while Gardner-Webb hit eight shots from distance.
6: Just six players saw the court for North Carolina in its season opener, despite the Tar Heels battling foul trouble late in the contest. Four players committed four or more personal fouls, with first-year guard Stephanie Watts fouling out with 4:02 remaining.
30: After holding Gardner-Webb to no more than 15 points in each of the first three periods, UNC gave up 30 points in the fourth quarter to allow the comeback.
The Tar Heels will take on Oregon at 12:30 p.m. on Sunday at Carmichael Arena.
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