For Taylor Koenen, the Minnesota connections run deep.
The North Carolina women's basketball guard was born and raised in the North Star State, having grown up in the Minneapolis suburb of Savage, Minn. She was named the 2016 Gatorade Minnesota Player of the Year and played for multiple years on both the Minnesota Stars and the Minnesota Fury development teams.
So when Minnesota’s women’s basketball team (7-1) visited Carmichael Arena on Wednesday afternoon, it almost felt like a homecoming for the sophomore.
“I knew some of the girls on the team,” Koenen said after the game. “But anybody wants to beat their hometown team.”
She certainly looked right at home the whole time, going 9-13 from the field and playing every minute in an eventual 88-83 UNC victory.
“It was a good win,” she said. “I know they’ve been playing well, but we played really well as a team tonight and that showed.”
The evening got off to a fast start, as the two teams combined for five three pointers within the first five minutes of game time. The rest of the first quarter continued to be back and forth, with Janelle Bailey and Jamie Cherry putting up eight points each for the Tar Heels while Kenisha Bell put up nine for Minnesota. Seven unanswered points to end the quarter gave UNC a 31-26 lead going into the second period.
North Carolina was able to stretch that advantage before halftime, as the team’s defense stepped up to hold the Golden Gophers to just 10 points in the second quarter. Six points from Koenen and four from Naomi Van Nes made it a 44-36 game at the half.