As North Carolina fell to No. 21 Miami, Xylina McDaniel watched from the sideline.
The senior forward suffered a season ending injury when she tore her ACL and meniscus in her right leg against Georgia Tech on Thursday. With their leader stuck on the bench, the Tar Heels lost to the Hurricanes 76-61 in Carmichael Arena on Sunday.
The Tar Heels (12-8, 2-3 ACC) were able to keep pace with the Hurricanes (17-2, 5-1 ACC) at first, primarily through a strong rebounding effort as players stepped up to compensate for the loss of McDaniel. In the first half, North Carolina outrebounded Miami 24-17. Senior guard N'Dea Bryant and redshirt junior forward Hillary Summers led the Tar Heels in the rebounding battle. Both Bryant and Summers earned double-doubles in the game.
But as the second half went on, fatigue got the best of the Tar Heels. They allowed Miami to take over the glass and claim 26 rebounds in the second half.
McDaniel’s absence became more and more evident as the clock ticked on. Without her physical toughness and leadership on the court, North Carolina began to make errors and Miami was quick to capitalize.
Turnovers plagued UNC’s efforts to break ahead. Without McDaniel’s leadership to guide the team through plays, North Carolina struggled to maintain composure on offense. Miscommunication led to clumsy passes that Miami was able to intercept with relative ease. Coupled with UNC’s waning rebounding prowess in the second half, the Hurricanes were able to stretch the lead to double digits and walk away with the victory.
Although the game showcased strong individual performances for Summers, Bryant, and first-year guard Stephanie Watts, it became clear that the greatest obstacle UNC will face for the rest of the season will be filling the hole that McDaniel’s injury has left them..
“People get scared coming in near (McDaniel) because she will lay you out. And definitely just her leadership on the court, so that’s just something we’re going to have to work on as a team — like I tried to talk a lot more today than I have in the past … because she’s definitely if anything the vocal leader on the court.” — Bryant on how she noticed and responded to McDaniel’s absence on the court.
With 19 points and 9 rebounds, Watts was one rebound shy of joining Summers and Bryant with a double-double.
Three Numbers that matter
0: With only six players seeing the court in the game, North Carolina did not have any bench points. Miami’s bench contributed 24 points.
2: North Carolina scored 2 second-chance points in the game.
16: North Carolina allowed Miami to score 16 points off of turnovers.
The Tar Heels will travel to Winston-Salem to take on Wake Forest at 7:00 p.m. on Thursday.
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