If head coach Sylvia Hatchell could have her way, she would want every game to be fast-paced. When the tempo ramps up, the other team falls right into the hands of the North Carolina women's basketball team's game plan.
“Sometimes, we haven’t done it this year, but a few years ago, I hate to say this, but we used to let them have a couple layups early so that they'd think they could run with us,” Hatchell said. “Because I knew as time went along we would win that battle.”
In a 59-47 win over Virginia Commonwealth University on Wednesday, UNC (3-0) looked a lot more like past Tar Heel teams, executing an accelerated-pace game plan from the start. VCU (2-1) countered with a fast pace of its own, jumping to a six-point lead in the first six minutes.
While Hatchell said they weren’t giving up the baskets intentionally this time, even with the early points she had a good feeling when she saw VCU go with the speed of her players.
“We're not going to give them a layup, but I didn't get upset because I wanted to keep it moving, keep it going,” Hatchell said.
The Tar Heels were helped by guard Shayla Bennett, a junior transfer playing in just her second regular season home game in Carmichael Arena. Bennett scored 10 points, her second double-digit performance of the season after scoring a team-high of 19 points in the season opener.
“And she hasn’t really shown you anything yet,” Hatchell said of the junior. “I’ve seen her play where she was just like all-world with her driving, her passing ... I've seen her make some unbelievable passes. I want to push it up and down the floor and she’s a fast-break, up-tempo style guard.”
Despite VCU jumping out to the lead, UNC was up by three points at the end of the first half. In the third quarter, Hatchell’s prophecy started to come true as the Rams slowed to a halt.
For more than a 10-minute stretch in the third quarter and beginning of the fourth, the Rams didn’t score a single point. In the meantime, the Tar Heels went on a 20-0 run, using last year's 2018 ACC Freshman of the Year Janelle Bailey to get the ball down low, opening up perimeter shots. With quick ball movement, they took advantage of the open spots on the floor.