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The Daily Tar Heel

UNC women's basketball collapses in fourth quarter of home loss to Mercer

Jamie Cherry Presybterian

Guard Jamie Cherry (10) looks for a pass against Presbyterian in a game at Carmichael Arena on Dec. 5.

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.

In fact, Bailey would not record another point or rebound after the third quarter, and she fouled out with a little less than four minutes remaining in the game. The 6-foot-4 first year has now fouled out in four of UNC's first 13 games.

“I think if I was in the game, Paris wouldn’t have gotten trapped like she did,” Bailey said. “If I go up there and set the screen, I’m sure they wouldn’t trap Paris.”

The fourth quarter made it obvious that Bailey's an essential part of the North Carolina team. She spent the majority of the quarter on the bench, and Mercer used that advantage to outscore the Tar Heels 33-8 during the quarter. Furthermore, Mercer was able to out rebound the Tar Heels 12-8 throughout that stretch.

“I realize that every game we’ve lost, I have fouled out of," Bailey said. "I don’t know when that’s going to click for me. I have to realize my value to the team. Whether it is letting something go, if I see that we have a good point margin, or just playing smarter than I am.”

Whether or not the Tar Heels would have been able to win if Bailey didn’t foul out is unknown, but she definitely thinks it made an impact. 

“I’m not taking blame for the loss. I know I did mistakes," she said. "I know everyone else had mistakes, but mine was one of the biggest ones."

@ballermike28

sports@dailytarheel.com

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