UNC’s aggressive defense — which in the first half led to missed assignments and open Lady Eagle baskets, tightened up — forcing eight turnovers in the fourth quarter, and allowing the Tar Heels to find a rhythm on the fast break and end the game with 28 points off of turnovers.
Who stood out?
Though Taylor Koenen started slowly in her first game as a Tar Heel, the first-year found her game, scoring a team-high 23 points and collecting nine rebounds. Koenen was held scoreless through the first quarter and overcame four turnovers for a solid game.
Hatchell was pleased with Koenen’s performance, saying that she expects her to be a front-runner for ACC Freshman of the Year.
Last season’s ACC Freshman of the Year, Stephanie Watts showcased another solid performance. The sophomore was all over the court defensively, leading the team with four steals, and tallied a double-double with 22 points and 11 rebounds.
When was it decided?
Junior guard Jamie Cherry dished a beautiful pass to first-year forward Emily Sullivan, who knocked down her jumper with 2:09 remaining in the third quarter to give the Tar Heels the lead at 56-54.
On the other side of the court, redshirt sophomore transfer Paris Kea blocked a shot followed immediately by a Stephanie Watts three — one of four for her on the night — to give UNC a five-point lead, its biggest of the game.
These three plays punctuated a 23-5 UNC run and finally allowed North Carolina to put away the overmatched Lady Eagles for good.
Why does it matter?
Three-point shooting dictated the change of tone for North Carolina in the second half. In the first half, UNC made only two of their 16 attempts from beyond the arc — good for 12.5 percent. But after halftime, the Tar Heels went 6-for-18, including multiple threes at the end of the third quarter to put Carson-Newman away.
Wednesday night’s game illustrated the importance of 3-point accuracy for the Tar Heels. While youth and inexperience will likely be the overarching theme for a UNC team with eight first-years, how the Tar Heels shoot from three may decide their fate more directly.
If Koenen, Watts, and sophomore guard Destinee Walker hit their threes, UNC could challenge the rest of the ACC. But, if the shooting falls flat — as it did in the first half against Carson-Newman — North Carolina's road to a successful season gets a lot tougher.
When do they play next?
The Tar Heels will play one more exhibition game against Elizabeth City State on Monday at 7 p.m. at Carmichael Arena.