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Sylvia Hatchell credits speed in UNC women's basketball fast-paced win over VCU

UNC sophomore forward Janelle Bailey (44) gets ready to take a shot in UNC's 59-47 win over VCU on Nov. 14 at Carmichael Arena.

UNC sophomore forward Janelle Bailey (44) gets ready to take a shot in UNC's 59-47 win over VCU on Nov. 14 at Carmichael Arena.

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.

“Coach always preached push tempo,” Bennett said. “As far as scoring … Janelle did a good job drawing attention to herself and getting the ball inside so she creates other opportunities for us and we just have to knock down shots.”

Bailey, a 6-foot-4 center, wasn’t just a presence in the paint. During the Tar Heels' third-quarter run, Bailey knocked down the first 3-pointer of her college career.

“I’ve been working on it in the offseason, I'm just trying to expand my game now,” Bailey said. “I learned a lot from last year and I'm trying to be very versatile as the year goes on.”

UNC is going to need the versatility from Bailey, as well as consistency from the offense, moving forward. The team is heading into a challenging five-game stint of road games including contests against No. 21 South Florida and UCLA, a squad that made the Elite Eight last year. 

And they have room to improve. Hatchell rated her team a “6-to-7” on defense and a “4-to-5” on offense in Wednesday’s win.

But after multiple seasons of rosters depleted by injuries and transfers, Hatchell finally has a squad that is showing signs they can execute her game plan down the road.

“I love how we are going up and down the floor,” Hatchell said. “I know at times it's not real pretty. But we are going to get better at that and it's going to pay off for us.”

@James_Tatter

@DTHSports | sports@dailytarheel.com

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