There were less than 10 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, and the North Carolina women’s basketball team held a commanding 16-point lead.
The Tar Heel fans in Carmichael Arena were becoming rowdy. A victory, which would've moved UNC to 11-2 and winners of nine straight, seemed imminent.
Instead, the Mercer Bears ended the game on a 20-2 run and stole a victory in Chapel Hill on Thursday afternoon.
North Carolina (10-3) led for the majority of the first three quarters. Behind Paris Kea’s 24 points and Janelle Bailey’s 19 points and 10 rebounds through three quarters, the Tar Heels enjoyed a 12-point lead at the beginning of the fourth. Things would only go downhill for the Tar Heels from there.
Kea had started the game on fire. She led UNC throughout the game, and she shot 10-14 from the field through the first three quarters. This performance did not extend into the final one: Kea went 1-5 in the fourth quarter and scored just two more points
“Every time Paris touched the ball, they were double teaming her, making her give it up, which was really smart,” head coach Sylvia Hatchell said. “Every time we tried to run something, they were taking us out of it, and we are such a young team that we just don’t have other players besides Paris that can just plays in a situation like that.”
Once Kea realized that the Mercer (11-2) defense was putting an emphasis on stopping her, she tried to adjust by calling for her teammate, forward Emily Sullivan, to set a screen. Despite this scheme, the offense was never able to run as effectively once Mercer began to double team Kea.
“When they trapped me, I told Emily that it was mostly her man,” Kea said. “Instead of allowing me to come off the screen, I told her to just pop back, so I could hit her. I know she knocked down a little mid-range one time, but other than that, I’m not too sure.”
One of the key differences between the first three quarters and the last was who was on the court. After having a dominate first half in which she scored 16 points with eight rebounds, Bailey saw little court time in the second half due to foul trouble.