There’s no shortage of accomplishments on Sylvia Hatchell’s resume. In her 32 years as head coach of the North Carolina women’s basketball team, Hatchell’s teams have raised dozens of banners in the Carmichael Arena rafters.
But Hatchell’s current iteration of Tar Heels (14-9, 4-6 ACC) has a long way to go, if she hopes to notch another achievement.
On an afternoon where UNC honored the 1998 team for its ACC Championshipand former players — like 2006 National Player of the Year Ivory Latta — the current Tar Heels looked flat and uninspired in their 92-72 loss to Miami (16-7, 6-4 ACC).
In her southern lilt, Hatchell opened her remarks politely, but she noticeably omitted praise for her own players.
“Away from the game, it was a great day,” she said. “We had a lot of good energy and activity off the court today.”
But you wouldn't have guessed that based on what happened on the court.
Miami hit threes on its first two possessions of the second quarter and jumped out to a 29-19 lead.The Hurricanes entered the game 13th of 15 teams in the ACC in 3-point shooting, but they shot 8-14 from deep Sunday.
To complement their perimeter success, the Hurricanes also outrebounded the Tar Heels 45-31 and scored 48 points in the paint to the UNC's 26.
Hatchell tried nearly a dozen different defensive schemes, but none of them could stop the flood of Hurricanes offense.
“We played a lot of things and not much of anything worked today,” she said. “Today was about the poorest defensive showing that we’ve had all year.”
Hatchell blamed the lapse on a combination of effort and inexperience, but first-year forward Janelle Bailey was more straightforward about the root of UNC’s struggles.
“I do see that there’s a lack of energy,” Bailey said. “I don’t know where that’s coming from, but I hope there’s none left for the rest of the ACC, or we won’t be going anywhere.”
One player who showed no shortage of energy was Paris Kea. The redshirt juniorscored 31 points and made all five of her 3-point attempts. She also added two steals and a block defensively.
Kea played 39 minutes, only coming out for the game’s final minute with victory out of reach. She tired a little as the game progressed, but it was clear her team couldn’t afford to have her on the bench.
“I think I was a little fatigued,” Kea said. “My legs started cramping up a little, but you have to fight through it.”
Hatchell has seen plenty of losses and refused to panic, though she did exhort her players to find a sense of urgency with only six games left before the ACC Tournament begins Feb. 28.
She also chose to focus on the positives of seeing her former players again, telling stories about the attitude and mental edge exhibited by players like Tracy Reid and Jessica Gaspar from the 1998 team. That mental edge is visibly lacking from this year’s Tar Heels.
“I look out there and I see them and I think about when they played and the toughness they had – the tenacity and the mentality.
“And that’s what I’m trying to instill in this team.”