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The Daily Tar Heel

UNC dazzles in first half, weathers inconsistency in second half in 84-61 win

Senior guard Paris Kea (22) looks to pass the ball during a game against Wake Forest in Carmichael Arena on Thursday, Jan. 17, 2019. UNC won 84 to 61.

The crowd was already celebrating what would have been a 54-18 halftime lead when redshirt senior guard Paris Kea’s layup finally came back down, giving the net a crisp swish as it passed through. The score added two more points to the North Carolina women's basketball team's lead with one second left in the opening frame.

It was the kind of half where the Tar Heels (10-8, 1-3 ACC) did everything right. UNC ultimately won, 84-61, but only after slipping up and letting Wake Forest outscore it by 15 points in the second half. The Tar Heels are still trying to figure out how to string together two good halves in a row.

“We either have a good first half, terrible second half like tonight, or we have a terrible first half and we’re down in the hole and we have to have a phenomenal second half, and we just can’t do that,” Kea said. 

Seconds before the halftime buzzer, Kea fought off a defender and a dwindling clock for a mid-range jumper. Wake Forest’s Kaylen Dickson met the ball with an extended hand, blocking it back to the court. 

It could have been a very minor disappointment to end the offensive and defensive clinic of the first two quarters, but Kea gathered it back up and finished the play. Her second-effort bucket capped twenty minutes of play where UNC was nearly perfect.

The Tar Heels shot 54 percent from the field while making eight of their 16 3-point attempts. They had 14 assists on 22 made shots. When they did miss, they had 10 offensive rebounds to the Demon Deacons’ nine defensive boards. They turned those second chances into 16 more points, including Kea’s buzzer beater.

Meanwhile, Wake Forest managed just two made field goals in each of the first two quarters. UNC forced 15 turnovers, with its six steals contributing to 22 points off turnovers in the half. 

For a team that has struggled to find consistency, the first half was the best-case scenario of what North Carolina can look like. But then the squad ran out of steam, while the Demon Deacons did not roll over after halftime.

“I tell them in the locker room, ‘they’re in there getting chewed out,’” head coach Sylvia Hatchell said. “‘They are going to come out with unbelievable energy and intensity. They are going to come after you so hard. You can’t let your guard down, you cannot relax.’” 

“And we did that.”

The result wasn’t dire, as UNC still posted the victory — its first in ACC play. And defending a lead is easier than clawing back from a deficit like the Tar Heels had to do on Sunday at Syracuse. There, they fell to a 19-point deficit at the half before outscoring the No. 12 Orange by six in the final 20 minutes of the loss.

They knew exactly what kind of halftime talk Wake Forest got. But they still couldn't seem to find the recipe to stay even-keeled for four straight quarters.

Junior guard Taylor Koenen, who finished with 21 points on 8 of 9 shooting and 4-for-4 on 3-point shooting, described the lapses as “being lackadaisical.” 

The numbers back this assessment up.

UNC had no fast break points or points off turnovers. That’s also because the team forced 11 fewer turnovers than it had in the first half, with each squad coughing it up four times. The Tar Heels were out-rebounded in the second half, 21-15, and allowed Wake Forest to shoot 50 percent on 32 attempts after holding the team to 23.5 percent on 4 of 17 to start the game.

“That is where our leadership has to make sure that does not happen,” Hatchell said. “We can’t accept that we have a big lead. That is one thing that we are working on.”

If the first half is emblematic of what UNC can do at its best, then that may be the only thing that it has to work on. But tightening the screws could be the one thing standing in the way of a successful season in the ACC.


@DTHSports |

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