Sophomore guard Stephanie Watts looked impressive in the first half, but was forced to spend much of it on the bench due to foul trouble. The team was able to hold down the fort, however, and North Carolina led 36-22 at the break.
The second half looked a lot smoother for UNC.
After the Hornets cut the lead to nine, the Tar Heels went on an 18-3 run that put them into the driver’s seat. Much of this was thanks to a great performance by redshirt sophomore guard Paris Kea, who had 11 points in the third quarter.
Alabama State would not go quietly, however, and answered with a 9-0 run to end the quarter, cutting to score to 55-41.
The Hornets fought hard and pushed UNC throughout this game, which is exactly what was needed for an early season matchup. But the fourth quarter was smooth sailing for North Carolina and the talented roster proved to be too much for the Hornets in the end. The Tar Heels scored the first 14 points of the final frame, and the game finished with a final score of 84-54.
Who stood out?
Paris Kea was the star of the night. She scored 22 pointson 8-of-13 shooting to go with four boards and two assists. While she stuffed the stats on offense tonight, she is also one of the team’s best defenders. This is a good sign for North Carolina since Kea could add an important scoring option down the road.
First-year forward Emily Sullivan had a great debut. She scored 12 points and ripped down six rebounds off the bench for UNC. At 6’4” she’s one of the tallest players on the team and has a lot of potential. With a relatively thin front court, the development of Sullivan will be something to watch for North Carolina.
Stephanie Watts didn’t shoot as well as she usually does, but she still had a solid game. She finished with 13 points, eight boards and a game-high five assists. Coach Sylvia Hatchell said that she was surprised that Watts played, however, as the sophomore guard hyper extended her finger earlier in the week.
When was it decided?
With the score at 36-27 in the third quarter, the Hornets would just not go away. They were capitalizing on Tar Heel mistakes and kept the game close. But the third quarter is when the game shifted. After a few quick baskets, it was time for Kea to take over. She scored nine points in less than three minutes and gave UNC the spark that they needed. This turned into a 18-3 run that built an insurmountable lead for North Carolina.
Why does it matter?
This is a young team that is still learning how to gel. These non-conference games will be important for developing chemistry and getting experience for the many first-years on the team. There seemed to be some first-game jitters, but the Tar Heels hope to shake those off and push forward this season.
Where do they play next?
The Tar Heels will stay in Chapel Hill as they take on Alabama A&M at 6 p.m. on Thursday.