While the 2018-2019 season thus far has produced perhaps more low moments on paper than expected, there are still plenty of reasons to hold optimism for the North Carolina women’s basketball team. Just ask head coach Sylvia Hatchell.
“People have got to understand – everybody – that this team is a really good team,” Hatchell said following the team's 64-63 loss to Florida State on Sunday. “It’s not the team that went through this NCAA stuff the last couple of years."
Just before that game, a 73-66 loss to then-No. 3 Louisville displayed the resilience and grit for UNC so integral to competing in the ACC — traits that, frankly, have been absent for the Tar Heels in recent years.
After trailing by as many as 19 points and finding themselves down 40-23 at halftime, the Tar Heels shot 62 percent in the third quarter and whittled the lead down to just two. Though a UNC upset was not to be, the close loss to a perennial title contender in the Cardinals gave the team a glimpse at its potential.
That potential was also on display in the Florida State loss, a back-and-forth game in which the Seminoles scored 10 of the last 15 points to nab the win. Still, three players finishing in double figures highlighted a balanced scoring effort.
“We can be a championship team when we play off each other because it doesn't matter who scores,” Bailey said. “At the end of the day, we have to win the game. That was the message (going into the second half) and we went out there and did it.”
Though the Tar Heels have just a 9-7 record, and are winless through two games of ACC play, they have time and again shown flashes of strong play. Despite the inconsistent start, UNC perhaps could even vie for an NCAA tournament berth for the first time since the 2014-2015 season if the team is able to harness that potential.
Of course, the results will have to come first. This season marks the third year in a row in which the Tar Heels have started 0-2 in conference play and back-to-back years of finishing 15-16 have taken wind out of the Carolina Blue sails for optimistic UNC fans.
But before disregarding this season for the Tar Heels, take a look at the individual talents on the squad. After a promising first-year campaign, sophomore center Janelle Bailey continues to shine, posting team highs in both points (17.1) and rebounds (9.3) per game.