On Thursday evening, the North Carolina women’s basketball team (15-11, 6-6 ACC) was humbled in a road matchup with Pittsburgh (10-16, 1-11 ACC), losing by a score of 91-78. Porous defense and an inability to mount a comeback in the game's final minutes led to a major blow to the Tar Heels' NCAA Tournament hopes.
Opening the first quarter with two missed layups, the Tar Heels would find themselves playing catch up for the remainder of the game. In the first quarter, UNC made seven of 20 field goal attempts, good for just 35 percent from the field. Pitt, on the other hand, shot a blistering 68.8 percent on its 16 attempts in the first quarter, sinking five three pointers. Typically, Pitt only makes 5.6 three-pointers on average over the course of an entire game.
At the start of the second quarter, Pitt sank another three-pointer, which gave them a 10 point lead over the Tar Heels. In the second quarter, UNC had four turnovers, and the Panthers were able to turn those into five points, going 8-13 from the field compared to 6-16 for the Tar Heels. At halftime, Pitt was on top by 16 points, 53-37.
Trailing by 14 at the end of the third period, the fourth quarter didn’t turn out any better for the Tar Heels. Redshirt senior Paris Kea on the court was unable to provide her usual heroics; she didn't make a field goal in the final period, and was just 2-13 for the game as a whole and 0-8 from 3-point range.
In the final stages, UNC managed to cut the Panther lead to six points, but was unable to get stops and allowed Pitt to pull away once again. The Tar Heels also went cold again after a spark of life, managing just four points in the final 3:45 of the game.
UNC went just 27-73 from the field and 7-31 from 3-point range for the game, while allowing Pitt to shoot 36-61 overall including 11-19 from 3-point range.
Who stood out?
Junior guard Shayla Bennett contributed a season-high 25 points for the Tar Heels, the most of UNC player in the game. She sank eight of her 16 field goal attempts, and threw in three 3-pointers along with five rebounds and four assists. Bennett, a transfer, is in her first season with the Tar Heels, and was a lone bright spot for the team in its most disappointing loss of the ACC season.
When was it decided?
The deciding moment of the game occurred with 3:45 remaining in the fourth quarter, when the Tar Heels were able to cut Pitt’s lead to just six points. UNC had the opportunity to come out on top, but the ensuing cold stretch put the nail in the coffin for the Tar Heels. The Panthers stymied the UNC momentum en route to a 13 point lead before the buzzer sounded, sending North Carolina home in defeat.
Why does it matter?
Following the loss, the Tar Heels have dropped to eighth in the ACC with a 6-6 conference record. Additionally, UNC now faces even longer odds to secure an NCAA Tournament bid, despite a pair of top-ten wins over Notre Dame and N.C. State.
When do they play next?
The Tar Heels face off against Virginia on Sunday at 3 p.m. in Chapel Hill. The game will feature a celebration of the 25th anniversary of the team's 1994 National Championship.
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