McDaniel said she knows she can contribute to the team more once she fully returns to playing shape. Coach Sylvia Hatchell said the team was very close to winning in its three losses, which were decided by a combined six points. She said the return of McDaniel to full form will help the Tar Heels get over the hump and win close games.
“We could have won all those (games). We could have easily been 7-0,” Hatchell said. “I’m hoping to get (McDaniel) out there stronger and better — get her a little bit more mobile where she can contribute and help us even more.”
The Tigers finished the game with one more rebound than North Carolina and 24 bench points, eight more than the Tar Heels. McDaniel accounted for all 16 of the UNC’s bench points. North Carolina, depleted because of injuries and transfers, managed to play only seven players, while Pacific had eight players score and 10 play.
Still, Hatchell said fatigue was not a factor down the stretch when the game was close, saying the Tar Heels played well during a stretch earlier in the season of three games in three days.
“You’re only tired if you let yourself be tired,” she said. “You gotta push through things like that so we’ll learn to do that.”
North Carolina held a 37-34 lead after a tight first half that saw both teams hold leads. Pacific grabbed a three-point lead after a 12-0 run early in the third quarter and the Tar Heels could never quite recover.
Hatchell said the Tar Heels needed a little more toughness to overcome the Tigers. She said the team looks to the leaders — McDaniel and sophomore guard Jamie Cherry — to take charge of the team and show the rest of the team what it takes to win.
Cherry, who played with a facemask because of a broken nose suffered against Fairleigh Dickinson, said McDaniel’s increased playing time will help the team improve enough to win close games.
“Everybody’s learning each other and just having (McDaniel) come back…. The freshmen are learning where (McDaniel) likes the ball, where she needs to get the ball and I think it’s just everybody’s still learning,” she said. “We have a long ways to go and we’re going to get better over time.”