Kea — who scored 15 of her game-high 32 points in the final quarter of play — was determined to get a win on her senior night. With 8:22 left in the game, the redshirt senior guard drove hard to the basket, laid the ball up with her left hand to score and drew a foul in the process. When she finished the three-point play after the media timeout, the game was tied, 50-50, and the crowd was as raucous as it had been all afternoon.
After about six minutes of the contest going back and forth, the Tar Heels had a chance to take a three-point lead with 2:08 to play. Kea drained a jumper on the left baseline through contact but missed the free throw that followed. UNC led 68-66, but NC State’s first-year center Elissa Cunane knotted the game at 68 a piece with 1:29 left to play.
Then, when the Wolfpack scored again, Kea — as always — was ready to take over. The 5-foot-9 guard hesitated before drawing a foul on NC State’s DD Rodgers on an elbow jumper. With 31 seconds remaining in the contest, Kea missed the first free throw but made the second to put UNC within one.
But fouls by junior guard Taylor Koenen and Bailey sent the Wolfpack’s sophomore forward Kayla Jones to the free throw line twice in six seconds — at the 13-second mark and the 7-second mark of the final quarter.
Jones buried four free throws, and N.C. State avoided another upset at the hands of their rival, escaping Chapel Hill with a 74-69 victory.
Who stood out?
Kea carried the Tar Heels yet again, but the team came up just short of a win. In her last game at Carmichael Arena, the redshirt senior guard finished with 32 points on 11 of 17 shooting from the floor. She also added five rebounds and two assists, and played all 40 minutes of the game.
When was it decided?
Though the game looked to be slipping away from UNC in the third quarter, Kea and Bennett, who together scored 50 points, wouldn’t let their team go down without a fight. The game wasn’t out of reach until N.C. State’s Jones sunk a pair of free throws with 7 seconds left to give the Wolfpack a five-point advantage.
Why does it matter?
UNC couldn’t pull the upset for the second consecutive time against top-10 team, N.C. State, but the game had to serve as a reminder for head coach Sylvia Hatchell’s group as to how good the team can be when at close to full strength.
Still, UNC was without redshirt junior guard Stephanie Watts, who averages 15.2 points per game. Hatchell says Watts will return for the team’s final regular-season game against Duke on Sunday, March 3.
When do they play next?
The Tar Heels will take on Duke in Durham next Sunday for their regular season finale at noon.
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