The North Carolina defense struggled guarding the N.C. State ball screens and gave the Wolfpack far too many open looks from behind the arc. Even though North Carolina resorted to pressing in an effort to stop the onslaught, the Wolfpack found Jennifer Mathurin for an open corner three at the end of the first half to take a commanding 54-33 lead at the break.
Despite the halftime adjustments, N.C. State stretched the lead to 25 just two minutes into the second half and forced Sylvia Hatchell to call an early timeout. While UNC was able to have some success in the second half, the outcome of the game was never in doubt.
Who stood out?
Despite the early deficit, Cherry never let up. Although she didn’t have her best shooting night, the junior continued to attack and hit several tough shots to keep the deficit from getting too far out of control. Cherry finished with a game-high 25 points, but she could have used more help from her teammates, as Kea was the only other Tar Heel in double figures.
For the Wolfpack, Ashley Williams was deadly from 3-point range. In the first half, all eight of her shot attempts came from behind the arc and she hit five of them. N.C. State was able to penetrate off the dribble and Williams was able to make the Tar Heels pay when they over-helped.
When was it decided?
Down 15 with 1:33 left in the first half, North Carolina was on a brief run and could have gone into the half with a manageable deficit if it closed the half well. Instead, the Tar Heels surrendered two three-pointers in the final minute. Against a ranked opponent on the road, a 21-point deficit is simply too much for a young, undermanned team to overcome.
Why does it matter?
With North Carolina missing two key players, it’s not a surprise that points were hard to come by, but its defensive woes continue to plague them. The Tar Heels have given up at least 80 points in each of their last five games. It’s nearly impossible to win games when the offense has to score over 80 points to have any shot at winning.
With N.C. State losing earlier in the season to UNC, it was no surprise the Wolfpack started the game with great intensity and passion. But the Tar Heels were never able to match the energy needed to win a rivalry game.
When do they play next?
North Carolina concludes its regular season with a home game against Duke on Sunday.