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.’”