DURHAM — Paris Kea stared out into the faces of the media members gathered for the postgame press conference after the UNC-Duke women’s basketball game. The redshirt senior guard took a long moment to think, before offering a few words to summarize her final regular season game in a Tar Heel uniform.
“Little upset that we lost to Duke,” Kea said with a dry smile. “In Cameron.”
In one of the most lackluster games played this season, UNC lost to Duke, 62-44, ending the regular season on a two-game losing streak.
If the answer was lackluster, it was fitting for one of the most lackluster games North Carolina has played this season. UNC lost to Duke, 62-44, ending the regular season on a two-game losing streak, having lost to N.C. State University last week.
For a team that’s had the high of defeating Notre Dame, the No. 1 squad in the country, the game Sunday was definitely a low. Both teams came out of the gate shooting poorly; the score was only 7-6 in favor of UNC (17-13, 8-8 ACC) halfway through the first quarter.
Duke took the lead at the 3:36 mark in the first quarter, and never gave it back as North Carolina continued to miss shot after shot.The Tar Heels only made 17 out of their 61 shot attempts in the game, only shooting better than 23.5 percent in one quarter.
There was a point in the fourth quarter where UNC cut the lead to just nine as Duke began to miss shots, and Kea hit a pull-up three to give the team momentum. That all disappeared after a botched fastbreak by Jocelyn Jones and Taylor Koenen, which then led to a 9-0 run by Duke to seal the game.
North Carolina struggled the entire game with Duke’s zone defense. Relying more heavily than normal on Kea, due to Stephanie Watts missing her third game in a row, UNC’s drives were often stopped at the point of attack, and open shots didn’t fall.
“We were trying to get the ball inside,” head coach Sylvia Hatchell said. “I thought we had people open and good looks, but we weren’t getting it in there to them.”
The person open, more often than not, was Leah Church. Unfortunately for North Carolina, the sophomore guard couldn’t convert enough of those shots to keep North Carolina in the game. Stationed in the corners against the zone, Church took a career-high 11 3-point attempts, only making four.
“When they play zone, you get more shots as a 3-point shooter,” Church said. “I just tried to find the holes and tried not to hesitate because I knew those were the shots we were getting...unfortunately I just couldn’t knock down as many as I needed to.”
Church, who went 4-12 for the game, wasn’t the only player missing what should have been easy shots. No player for North Carolina shot 50 percent or better for the game, with Kea going 6-18 and center Janelle Bailey going 4-9.
The most telling stat for the Tar Heels’ offensive struggles was their points in the paint, where they were outscored 36-8 by the Blue Devils. Bailey, UNC’s dominant post player, was neutralized the entire game by constant double teams.
The sophomore center didn’t make a layup the entire game (all four of her field goals were jump shots), and none of North Carolina’s guards could get her the ball in position, scoring just eight points the whole game. It was the first game Bailey failed to score in double digits since Jan. 20 at Miami and just the third time all season.
“It kind of seemed impossible to get the ball into Janelle today,” Kea said.
Frustration boiled over for North Carolina after Church became entangled going for a rebound against Jade Williams. Bailey inserted herself between the two players, and needed to be held back by players and teammates while attempting to run toward Williams, before being ejected from the game.
“I don’t really know what happened out there,” Hatchell said about the incident. “There was no hitting or anything like that, nothing I would deem like a fight...There was probably talk and words and things like that.”
Frustrated would be the best word to describe UNC at the end of the game. Kea and Hatchell, the two rocks of the program, certainly seemed to be. Frustration will have to lead to improvement, though, to do anything in the postseason.
“I guess we’ll just have to make some noise in the tournament,” Kea said with another dry smile about the end of the game. “Which is what we planned to do anyways.”
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