ELON, N.C. — The North Carolina women's basketball team was looking to bounce back from a mediocre 2017-2018 season on Tuesday night with its three-headed monster of Janelle Bailey, Stephanie Watts and Paris Kea expected to lead the way.
Early concern arose for North Carolina, as both Bailey and Kea sat for all but three minutes of the first quarter with two fouls each against the Phoenix. Despite a slow start from the two key players, the same two and four more Tar Heels combined for 86 points in the 100-69 victory over Elon on Tuesday night.
With two of their stars forced to watch the majority of the first quarter from the bench, head coach Sylvia Hatchell and the Tar Heels searched for production elsewhere. They found it in the redshirt junior Watts and junior guard Shayla Bennett, who combined for 12 of the 18 North Carolina points in the first period.
Despite the Tar Heels offensive struggles in the opening frame and shooting a 25 percent from the field, they were able to escape with a 18-17 lead, closing on a 13-6 scoring run.
“We just needed to settle down,” Hatchell said of the team’s shaky start. “I was very confident of the kids that we put in there, and Shayla did a great job of leading us tonight.”
The Tar Heels started the second quarter with their explosive trio back on the floor. This time, Bailey and Kea powered the offense with Watts resting most of the period. Despite her missing three shots around the basket in the opening minutes of the game, North Carolina continued to feed Bailey, who scored her first points at the start of the second quarter.
Bailey and Kea powered what looked to be a revived UNC offense, combining for 13 points in the quarter.
The most consistent performance for UNC in the first half was from the transfer guard Bennett, who last played at Gulf Coast State. She led the Tar Heels with 9 points and five assists, guiding them to a 40-29 lead at halftime.
The second half was one of domination for North Carolina. After a relatively narrow advantage in the first 20 minutes, the Tar Heels outscored the Phoenix, 60-40, in the second half. It was a team effort, as six players reached double digits and nine players scored in total.