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The Daily Tar Heel

UNC women's basketball stuggles in second quarter again in loss to Notre Dame

The North Carolina women’s basketball team lost Sunday afternoon in Carmichael Arena to No. 6 Notre Dame, 77-55. 

What happened?

The Fighting Irish (18-3, 6-1 ACC) entered Sunday’s game as the heavy favorite. While UNC (12-8, 1-6 ACC) had only one win in the ACC, Notre Dame had just one conference loss coming into the contest. The Tar Heels had to play four near-perfect quarters to stand a chance, but a bad second quarter doomed them.

Paris Kea led the charge in the first quarter and the Fighting Irish did not have an answer. There were four lead changes, but then Notre Dame’s size took over. Junior Brianna Turner posed too great a threat for the Tar Heel defense, putting up 13 points, seven rebounds and four blocks by halftime. She would go on to lead the Irish with 24 points. UNC was down just three points after the first quarter, but Notre Dame outmatched UNC in all phases from that point on.

The Tar Heels missed redshirt senior Hillary Fuller, who was sidelined with a right knee injury. Fuller is out for the season and likely played the last game of her career. 

Her absence places immense pressure on UNC’s eight first-years, as Fuller was the team’s only upperclassman and primary big. Despite the hot shooting start, the inexperience inside eventually showed and North Carolina was left with another blowout loss.

Who stood out?

The first quarter belonged to Kea. The redshirt sophomore dropped 15 points in the period, going 7-for-8 from the field. She kept the Tar Heels in the game, as no other player scored more than three points. Kea finished the contest leading the team with 21 points and nine rebounds.

Sophomore Stephanie Watts continued to be a stable force for the Tar Heels. Before exiting in the third quarter with a knee injury, Watts put up 14 points. She took over in the second and third quarters after Kea’s production dropped off. 

The duo’s inability to synchronize their level of play led to UNC’s shortcomings — neither could get hot at the same time, and the Tar Heel offense couldn’t keep up with the fast-paced Irish.

When was it decided?

The Tar Heels dug themselves into quite the hole in the second quarter and could never quite recover. After being down only three points, UNC failed to execute and were continuously beaten in transition. 

The Fighting Irish outscored the Tar Heels, 23-6, during the second quarter, and UNC went just 2-for-13 from beyond the arc in the period. 

Take away that second quarter, and the Tar Heels lost by just five points.

Why does it matter?

With the loss, North Carolina fell to 1-5 in conference play. Coming into Sunday’s contest, the Tar Heels were already in the bottom three of the ACC.

It’s a tough conference — seven ACC teams were ranked in the most recent AP Poll. The Tar Heels have to find a way to get more wins against conference foes to start building up their NCAA Tournament resume.

Perhaps UNC will be able to find some solace in playing a very competitive first quarter against the Irish, one of the best teams in the ACC, and carry that energy over into four quarters of play going forward.

Where do they play next?

North Carolina travels to Coral Gables, Fla. on Thursday. There, the team will take on Miami at 7 p.m.

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