UNC’s woes went beyond not having Kea, though. The Tar Heels had no way of slowing down Duke’s offense, which was powered by redshirt junior guard Haley Gorecki. As a team, the Blue Devils shot 56.9 percent from the field and Gorecki went for 28 points after scoring 29 in her last trip to Carmichael Arena.
"I think she likes playing over here,” Hatchell said. “I don’t know, she might come over here and play pickup games. A lot of the Duke kids do.”
The Blue Devils also won the battle on the boards, out-rebounding UNC 42-30 and collecting 16 second-chance points to UNC’s 10.
“That was the whole game,” UNC sophomore center Janelle Bailey said of the rebounding disparity.
Yet, Kea’s absence was impossible to ignore. Offensively, Hatchell characterized her team as “out of sync,” and Bailey lamented a “lack of communication” between herself and her teammates.
That much was evident during a disastrous second quarter for UNC. After starting off well, UNC led by as many as eight points but trailed by nine come halftime after being outscored 18-2 by Duke during the final 7:31 before the break in a stretch that defined the game.
"As (Hatchell) said, we’re out of sync,” said Bailey, who scored a team-high 23 points. “I think that was the main issue and then one thing led to another. We put our heads down in the sand, then we couldn’t get it back out.”
The closest UNC came to the Blue Devils after halftime was five points. Each time UNC put pressure on the Blue Devils, they responded offensively, whether it be with Gorecki or her teammates, including junior forward Leaonna Odom (21 points, seven rebounds) and sophomore center Jade Williams (13 points, seven rebounds).
Offensively, UNC found little success through options other than Bailey in the post. Redshirt junior guard Stephanie Watts certainly had the attention of Duke head coach Joanne McCallie going into the game, but the Blue Devils limited her to 11 points on 4 of 18 shooting from the field.
“She has such WNBA range,” McCallie said of Watts. “I mean, she’s way out there, can be a threat at any time on the floor. Very proud of the team defense to identify her early before the catch.”
Now the question for UNC is how it will respond. A road trip to Clemson on Sunday makes for a quick turnaround and the way North Carolina reacts to an unexpected 16-point loss may say as much as its winning streak did.
Bailey is ready to turn the page but made it clear she won’t forget what she perceived as a sign of disrespect from Duke, when the Blue Devils scored on two layups in the open floor with less than a minute remaining and the outcome decided.
“I’ve never seen a team shoot twice with the clock running down,” Bailey said. “Whether you’re up – sometimes when you’re down they might still try to score – but we’ve just got to keep that in our mind.”
For UNC, how the rest of February shakes out is of far more importance. But for Bailey at least, there’s something for her to think about before her team’s regular season finale at Cameron Indoor Stadium on March 3.
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