Despite suffering a 67-57 loss to No. 4 Louisville, the North Carolina women’s basketball head coach Sylvia Hatchell wanted to focus on the positives.
“To play the No. 4 team in the country like we did, we did a lot of good things," she said. "I’m excited about the progress that we’ve made and how hard the kids are working.”
The game marked the Tar Heels’ (14-13, 4-10 ACC) seventh straight loss. They have not won in nearly a month since upsetting then-No. 15 Duke in overtime on Jan. 21.
Louisville (27-2, 13-1 ACC) came into Sunday afternoon's contest tied atop the ACC standings with Notre Dame — a top-five team which the Cardinals had beaten by 33 points earlier in the season — and North Carolina came in on a six-game skid.
But Hatchell didn’t fixate on the results of the game. Instead, she focused on identifying bright spots from a battle against one of the nation’s top teams. Where others might have seen despair, she saw progress.
“It’s not about the losses; it’s about how we play,” she said. “These kids busted their behinds out there and played good team basketball. We got better; we played a good game against a great team.”
In the face of a daunting matchup, the Tar Heels fought admirably. Stingy defense and efficient shooting propelled them to a 16-13 lead at the end of the first quarter.
North Carolina varied its defense to keep Louisville on its toes. In total, Hatchell said they showed Louisville six different looks. Those defensive changes led to Louisville turnovers, which led to North Carolina points. UNC forced six turnovers and held the Cardinals to 28-percent shooting in the first quarter.
Louisville head coach Jeff Walz took notice of the Tar Heels’ effort on defense — a hustle that kept them in the game for three quarters.