“If she's gonna take that shot it'd better go in,” Hatchell said. “And it did.”
Watts led the way for a UNC offense that was missing its third-highest scorer in dynamic point guard Paris Kea, who is out with an injury. In Kea’s absence, the other four regular starters picked up the slack to run away with the game from the opening whistle.
The team buried 14 3-pointers, tying the program record. Seven of those came in the first quarter. UNC scored 30 points in the opening ten minutes, its highest scoring first quarter since scoring 31 against Minnesota on Nov. 29, 2017.
“Not having Paris out there, I was concerned for us, but I thought we did a good job,” Hatchell said. “Shayla (Bennett) did a good job of moving the ball around and controlling it a little bit more out there. The first half was really good.”
Bennett filled in as the primary ball handler and dished five of her eight assists in the first half. She was also a perfect 4-4 from the field, including three made 3-pointers before halftime.
The spacing Bennett opened up allowed the Tar Heels to shoot 63.6 percent from the field and 61.1 percent from three in the first half as UNC led 55-23 at the break.
Though North Carolina cooled off in the second half, it had done enough damage early to coast to victory. Coach Hatchell was quick to point out that the Seahawks actually outscored the Tar Heels in the second half, 32-27.
By the end of the game, both sophomore Janelle Bailey and junior Taylor Koenen had racked up 12 rebounds, and joined Watts and Bennett as double-digit scorers for UNC.
“We both just take it upon ourselves, help each other out, hold each other accountable and making sure we rebound,” Koenen said. “I mean, Coach Hatchell says rebounding wins games. If we take care of that, we can also set goals and get double-doubles with this so we try to help each other with that.”
The blowout snaps a three-game losing streak for UNC, and is a sign that it is moving past a 2-4 record in its last six games, five of which were on the road.
UNC hosts UNC-Greensboro on Sunday before taking a break for final exams.
And while Hatchell highlighted the departure from a normal schedule during exams, the performance of her team Wednesday gave her optimism going into the break and for what the team can do when ACC play starts in January.
“We are excited about the potential of our team.”
@DTHSports | firstname.lastname@example.org