The UNC women’s basketball team (17-11, 8-6 ACC) got off to a lightning fast start and held off a pesky Boston College team (14-13, 3-11 ACC) to pick up a much-needed 93-78 win on Thursday.
UNC had to play without one of its best scorers, with redshirt junior guard Stephanie Watts forced to watch from the bench after suffering a knee injury during Sunday’s 70-53 win over Virginia.
But despite Watts’ absence, the North Carolina offense looked just fine all night.
After Boston College scored the game’s first three points, Paris Kea put up four of her own to give the home team a 4-3 lead. It was also significant as it brought her career points total to 1,500 in just her third season as a Tar Heel, showing just how important she’s been to head coach Sylvia Hatchell’s program.
“I didn’t know I was that close to the record,” Kea said with a smile after the game. “But it feels great playing at UNC, there’s obviously a lot of greats that have come through here.”
North Carolina then went on a decisive run powered by dominant inside play from sophomore Janelle Bailey, who scored 14 points in the first quarter alone. The Tar Heels stretched the lead to as many as 18 points, and went into the second holding a 31-15 advantage.
The second period featured more of the same, with Bailey continuing to score almost at will. The sophomore center converted a close-range jumper and a three-pointer in the opening few minutes to stretch the lead to 19, but BC’s Taylor Soule then rattled off five straight points to keep the visitors within sight. Bailey put up five straight points again late in the quarter to help send UNC into the locker room up 53-36.
Despite hanging around for most of the second half, the Eagles couldn’t quite find a foothold into the game. An 8-0 run brought the margin back to 13 points midway through the third quarter, but the Tar Heels were able to maintain a comfortable cushion throughout the period. A buzzer-beating three from Kea sent the home team into the final frame with a 74-57 lead.
Boston College refused to quit, though, and came out with intensity in the fourth quarter. Emma Guy helped spark a rally from the visitors that cut the lead to ten with just under seven minutes left to play, but a pair of Kea jumpers extended the margin back to 15. From there, the result never looked in doubt, and UNC held on for a solid 93-78 win.
It was the sixth straight loss for the struggling Eagles, and their ninth loss in the last ten games, but it represented an important victory for UNC in their penultimate home game of the season.
Who stood out?
Bailey and Kea put up 31 and 25 points, respectively, to lead the Tar Heels. Bailey in particular was unstoppable for large stretches from the paint, while Kea notched eight assists but turned the ball over a team-high seven times.
Taylor Koenen also had a performance worth mentioning, posting a double-double with 11 points and 15 rebounds as well as contributing five assists.
“Taylor is sort of our dirt player,” Hatchell said. “I call her LB for Larry Bird because she can do a lot of things out there, you know, not real flashy but she does things and helps us win and is just really solid.”
For Boston College, Soule led the way with 21 points and nine rebounds while Guy came in with 15 points of her own.
When was it decided?
Despite UNC getting out to a commanding lead early, they struggled for the rest of the night to put the game to bed. Boston College deserves credit for hanging tough and keeping things interesting up until the final quarter.
“There were some different things we were trying to do in the second half,” Bailey said. “As a team, we just have to work on rebounding, boxing out and being first to the ball. I knew that they were going to switch defenses in the second half, I knew the double team was coming. I was just trying to get the ball out quicker because I feel like turnovers could cost us the game or make it a closer game.”
However, the Eagles were never able to get any closer than ten points for the entire second half, and the Tar Heels looked fairly comfortable down the stretch on their way to closing out the victory.
Why does it matter?
UNC got a morale-boosting win on Sunday against UVA, but a shocking loss last week to a Pittsburgh team that was winless in the ACC still looms over the Tar Heels. Two straight wins will help remedy that disappointment and provide some much-needed momentum heading into the final two games of the regular season, both of which come against in-state rivals.
When do they play next?
The team has two days off before taking on NC State in their home finale on Sunday, Feb. 24. Then, the Tar Heels will close their regular season on March 3 at Duke.
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