On Thursday, the North Carolina women’s basketball team fell to Auburn in overtime, 86-81, in its final game of the Carolinas Challenge.
It was a battle of runs throughout much of the game between North Carolina (8-5) and Auburn (10-1) in the Myrtle Beach Convention Center. The second quarter featured a 10-2 run by Auburn and the third quarter contained a 9-2 run for the Tar Heels.
North Carolina was able to overcome a 34-29 first-half deficit to take Auburn to overtime, however the Tigers controlled the entire extra period. Auburn outscored UNC 17-12 and never let the Tar Heels get the lead in the overtime frame.
Turnovers also played a key role in the loss that snapped UNC’s three-game win streak. Despite outshooting their opponent and sharing the ball well, the Tar Heels suffered 27 turnovers, helping Auburn get 24 second chance points. Four Tiger players finished the game with at least three steals each.
Who stood out?
Junior guard Shayla Bennett and redshirt junior guard Stephanie Watts played 43 and 45 minutes, respectively.
Bennett was able to contribute 19 points on 58 percent shooting to go along with eight assists. She scored seven of North Carolina’s 12 points in the overtime period.
Watts was one rebound shy of reaching a double-double as she scored 16 points, grabbed nine boards, and managed to nab two steals. Watts shouldered most of the responsibility for UNC threatening beyond the arc. She was 4-9 from deep, while the rest of the Tar Heels were just 5-17.
When was it decided?
This nail-biter of a game came down to the final few possessions in regulation.
With 30 seconds remaining, Auburn hit two free throws to bring the North Carolina lead to just one. Redshirt senior guard Paris Kea proceeded to make just one shot at the free throw line, allowing Auburn’s Robyn Benton to convert the tying layup with 10 seconds remaining.
In overtime, Auburn’s Erica Sanders made a pair of free throws with just 35 seconds to go, giving the Tigers a seven-point lead. By that time, UNC’s chances of making a comeback were slim to none.
Why does it matter?
Auburn is now 10-1 this season with its only loss coming in a tight matchup with Iowa State (9-2). An overtime loss against the tough opponent shows the Tar Heels have a lot of drive this year to prove they should not be taken lightly and that they are a force to be reckoned with.
When do they play next?
On Dec. 28, the Tar Heels return to Carmichael Arena in Chapel Hill to take on Howard at 2 p.m.
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