DURHAM — The North Carolina women’s basketball team came up short once again at Duke’s senior day on Sunday afternoon, losing 70-54. The loss marks UNC’s ninth consecutive defeat; the Tar Heels’ last win was over Duke in Chapel Hill in January.
The Tar Heels (14-15, 4-12 ACC) hit 13 threes in their January meeting with Duke, and UNC’s offense picked up where it left off in Sunday’s first quarter. Four different Tar Heels made threes in the quarter as the team shot a combined 4-for-8.
Janelle Bailey added six points and avoided foul trouble, which could have been costly against Duke’s taller lineup.
Despite UNC’s strong outside shooting, Duke still led 20-18 after the first quarter.
After an up-and-down first quarter, both defenses dominated in the second. Duke failed to hit a field goal until halfway through the quarter, allowing UNC to open up a 26-22 lead – the largest it would hold.
Duke’s offense finally found its footing in the final minutes of the half and Jade Williams’ layup with 30 seconds left in the second quarter gave the Blue Devils a 31-29 halftime lead they would not relinquish.
As has plagued them all season, one quarter doomed the Tar Heels once again. The Blue Devils started the second half on a 15-0 run — not allowing UNC to score for the first 6:30. Bailey finally stopped the run over six minutes into the half with a put-back, but the damage was done.
Duke’s length and experience proved stifling for UNC’s youthful offense, holding the Tar Heels to only seven points in the entire quarter. By the end of the third quarter, Duke led 56-36 thanks to 4-5 shooting from deep and six turnovers from the Tar Heels.
UNC head coach Sylvia Hatchell said the Tar Heels’ inexperience comes through when they allow those costly runs.
“That’s been our problem all year,” Hatchell said. “When a team goes on a run like that, we don’t have anybody that can stop the bleeding out there.”
UNC’s lone senior Jamie Cherry did what she could to bring UNC back in the fourth quarter, twice hitting threes to keep the deficit below 20. But Duke senior guards Rebecca Greenwell and Lexie Brown were too good, keeping Duke well clear of any Tar Heel threats.
Who stood out?
In her final regular season game at UNC, Cherry led the Tar Heels in scoring and assists with 20 and six, respectively. Cherry shot 5-12 from three in her effort.
Bailey — the six-time ACC Rookie of the Week — managed to stay out of most foul trouble through the game. She posted 12 points and 12 rebounds, including five offensive boards.
Duke seniors Greenwell and Brown were dominant for the Blue Devils, scoring 31 and 22 points, respectively. Greenwell hit seven shots from outside and also grabbed 13 rebounds in the win. Seemingly every time UNC was poised to rally, one of the two seniors scored to quell any Tar Heel run.
When was it decided?
Duke’s dominant third quarter proved too much for UNC. The Blue Devils’ 20-2 run in the first eight minutes of the quarter was marked by two 3-pointers and a number of transition baskets. That sequence proved to be the difference in Duke’s 16-point victory.
Why does it matter?
All rivalry losses sting, but after the Tar Heels beat Duke in January’s overtime thriller in Chapel Hill, Duke proved it deserved its high-ranking with Sunday’s dominant win.
The loss also extended UNC’s nine-game losing streak which it will take into post-season play this week, and secured UNC’s third consecutive losing regular season – the longest such stretch since 1987-91.
When do they play next?
The Tar Heels next head to Greensboro, N.C., for the ACC Tournament this week. After posting a 4-12 conference, UNC will likely be seeded No. 12 and open tournament play against No. 13 Boston College at 1 p.m. on Wednesday.
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