“We just couldn’t throw it in the ocean,” Hatchell said. “We were taking some 3s, we were getting some open looks, we just didn’t knock them down.”
Not knocking those shots down amounted to a combined effort of 0-14 from beyond the arc in the second and third quarters. Only two players made more than half their shots for the night — Kea, and reserve forward Jocelyn Jones.
There were some positives throughout the game, despite the shooting woes. The team finished with 18 assists on 24 made field goals.
“I think when we’re open we’re gonna, we’re shooters, when we’re open we’re gonna shoot,” Watts said. “If it’s not open, we’re going to look for the people who are getting the ball to go in the basket… when our 3-point shots weren’t falling or our close shots weren’t falling, we were looking to find the people (whose shots) were.”
Included in North Carolina’s struggles was trying to defend Kent State’s Megan Carter. The 5-foot-7 guard pushed the tempo at every opportunity, often beating the entire UNC team down the court for looks at the rim. She ended the night as the Golden Flashes’ leading scorer, with 17 points.
Both defensive and offensive woes were compounded by the fact that it was the second game in a row North Carolina struggled with fouls. Four UNC players finished the game with four fouls and as a whole the team picked up 22 fouls. Hatchell, for her point, wasn’t overly concerned about the impact on the team.
“When we get in the ACC, those won’t be called,” Hatchell said. “I mean really, just think about it. It will be physical, it’ll be different. I can always pull the reins back a little bit, but to light a fire and get them playing out there, that’s hard to do. But I can always pull the reins back.”
The lowest point in the game for the Tar Heels came when Kent State took a 2-point lead in the middle of the fourth quarter, going up, 52-50. After that though, North Carolina found the fire Hatchell wanted.
The team went on to outscore its opponent 23-8 in the last 5:16 of the fourth quarter to close out the game. Kea led the way the entire time.
First she hit a 3-pointer from the left wing to give the Tar Heels the lead back. The next possession, she got the ball in the same spot off an offensive rebound, only this team she managed to draw and convert for a 4-point play.
“I feel like like I knocked down some important threes at the end,” Kea said with a grin after the game. “The and-1 was pretty lovely.”
Even with an improved roster, Kea will be the key to this team.The preseason All-ACC selection has the highest scoring average in the program history with 18.3 points per game. On a team with plenty of shooters, Kea’s swagger stands out.
“As the leader and the only senior, I feel like I had to reel us in,” Kea said. “Just keeping everybody encouraged. I know we didn’t have the best shooting night, but there’s things everyone can do to contribute to a win.”
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