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The Daily Tar Heel

UNC women's basketball knocks off N.C. State, earns second top-ten win in one week

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UNC players celebrate after a historic win against Notre Dame in Carmichael Arena on Sunday, Jan. 27, 2019. UNC won 78-73.

RALEIGH — Ticker screens flashed outside of Valvano Arena at Reynolds Coliseum, alternating between red and green: “SOLD OUT.” Inside the arena, North Carolina (14-9, 5-4 ACC) stepped into a hostile environment to take on No. 7 N.C. State (21-1, 8-1 ACC), the only remaining unbeaten team in the country entering Sunday afternoon. 

Exactly a week removed from their historic victory over then No. 1 Notre Dame, the Tar Heels were in giant slaying form again. UNC found consistency in the second half, ending N.C. State’s program-record 21 game winning streak with a 64-51 victory.

What happened?

The Tar Heels and Wolfpack handed the advantage back and forth in the first half, changing leads nine times. 

UNC was able to get close looks at the basket. Despite picking up two fouls in the first quarter, sophomore Janelle Bailey led the effort down low, while redshirt junior Stephanie Watts and junior Taylor Koenen were also effective in getting the ball up. It also helped UNC that the team took care of the ball, turning the ball over just three times to N.C. State’s six.

N.C. State had much greater success moving the ball in half court sets, however, with six first half assists to UNC’s three. They cashed those out for five 3-pointers on 11 attempts. From beyond the arc, the Tar Heels struggled to convert early. They missed their first seven three pointers, and missed eight of nine in the first half — including a Paris Kea shot with five seconds remaining in the second quarter that sent them to the locker room down 32-31. 

Kea found her groove midway through the third period, pulling up for a triple that gave UNC a 41-38 lead. A Watts three-pointer also helped, but it was Bailey, playing with three fouls, who continued to handle the Wolfpack defense in the post as UNC’s lead ballooned to 10 by the end of the third period.

A whistle-heavy fourth quarter put both teams in foul trouble, but UNC head coach Sylvia Hatchell stuck with her starting five as N.C. State tried to claw back into the game. Whenever the Wolfpack threatened, North Carolina always had an answer, never letting its opponent get closer than eight points in the final quarter as UNC picked up its second marquee win in just over a week.

Who stood out?

The starting five for North Carolina were able to see the game through from start to finish, with only three bench players seeing the court for a combined 17 minutes. 

Watts, Kea and Bailey each had double digit scoring efforts. Watts’ trio of three-pointers all came at decisive moments, and helped stymie strong stretches for N.C. State en route to a team-high 20 points. Kea and Bailey had 17 and 16 points, respectively, and Bailey’s post presence was especially instrumental for UNC, along with her 13 rebounds. 

Koenen was the only Tar Heel to play all 40 minutes of the victory, and despite some trouble at the free throw line, she was an efficient 4-6 from the field. The ball seemed to pass through her hands on nearly every possession as she helped distribute.

When was it decided?

With under two minutes on the clock and the North Carolina lead down to eight, the Wolfpack crowd was ferocious as UNC brought the ball up the court. The Tar Heels didn’t rush the possession however, with Kea holding the ball before dishing it off to an in-motion Koenen.

Koenen then found Watts, who sunk a three pointer – and with it, the hopes of N.C. State – as UNC carried a 62-51 lead into the final minute. 

With the game all but decided, North Carolina had a few more extended possessions that left the Wolfpack with no time to avoid the upset.

Why does it matter?

Two wins against top ten opponents in one week mark what is certainly the best stretch of basketball UNC has played all season. Before last Sunday, the Tar Heels had only won two of their previous six games and were off to a 2-4 start to ACC play. Now, at 5-4 in conference, they are in the top half of the ACC standings with a pair of convincing wins against dominant teams. 

For a team that has consistently said that they hadn't yet played at their best, UNC is beginning to show what they can do when they play four consistent quarters of basketball. With seven regular season games remaining, the Tar Heels have completely changed the tone of their season.

Where do they play next?

UNC has another tobacco road rivalry game when Duke comes to town on Thursday night. The game will tip off at 7 p.m in Carmichael Arena.

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