Janelle Bailey scored a team-high 20 points and shot a perfect 10-10 from the free-throw line as the North Carolina women’s basketball beat Georgia Tech on the road, 67-60, on Thursday night.
In their first overtime game of the season, the Tar Heels also got 17 points from guard Madinah Muhammad as they moved to 14-5 overall and 5-3 in the ACC.
The Yellow Jackets jumped out to early leads of 6-0 and 13-5 and, by first quarter’s end, they led 21-16 — aided in part by six UNC turnovers.
Things slowed down significantly in the second quarter. After combining for 37 points in the first 10 minutes, the ACC foes scored just 14 more before halftime. Georgia Tech (14-5, 5-3 ACC) had just five; UNC had nine.
Seven of those Tar Heel points came at a great time. Although they were well spread out over the final 3:41 of the first half, two baskets from Bailey and a Muhammad 3-pointer sent UNC on a 7-0 run. By halftime, the team had narrowed its deficit to 26-25.
With jumpers from Taylor Koenen and Malu Tshitenge to start the third, North Carolina extended that run to 11-0. The Tar Heels, thanks to 7-14 shooting, went on to outscore the Yellow Jackets 18-13 out of the break. After three quarters, UNC led 43-39.
In a free-flowing fourth quarter, North Carolina and Georgia Tech opted for a slew of quick possessions. It worked for the Yellow Jackets, who regained the lead halfway through the quarter. It didn’t work as well for the Tar Heels, who trumped their first-quarter total with seven turnovers.
But when crunch time came, Courtney Banghart’s team was prepared. Muhammad stole the ball for a layup and a 50-49 lead. After a Georgia Tech score, Shayla Bennett promptly responded with a jumper of her own.
Two possessions later, with UNC leading 52-51, Koenen blocked a jumper with 26 seconds left and secured the rebound. Two clutch Bailey free throws boosted North Carolina’s lead to 54-51.
A three by Georgia Tech’s Kierra Fletcher, however, tied the game with 11 seconds. Out of a timeout, Bennett missed a contested layup and the teams, tied 54-54, were off to overtime.
In the extra period, UNC got two quick buckets and never lost its lead again. The Tar Heels, in total, outscored their opponent 13-6 en route to a road win.
Who stood out?
Bailey, a 6-foot-4 junior center, was the star with a 20-point, 11-rebound double-double. Half of those points came from the foul line, where Bailey has gradually improved her percentage in each of her three years at UNC.
Muhammad had 17 points, including seven in the overtime period, and UNC got usual contributions from its other three starters: Koenen, Bennett and Tshitenge. Fletcher led Georgia Tech with 19 points.
When was it decided?
After a Bennett pull-up, UNC extended its overtime lead to 63-58 with 1:09 left. Georgia Tech turned the ball over on its next possession and had to foul Bailey, who sank two free throws to ice the win.
Why does it matter?
Entering Thursday, UNC had yet to lose consecutive games this season. That continued against Georgia Tech with an especially gritty win against the ACC’s top scoring defense (49.1 points per game allowed).
The team now sits at 5-3 in conference as it wraps up the first half of its ACC schedule — a gauntlet that’s included some of the league's top teams in Louisville, N.C. State, Florida State and Virginia Tech.
When do they play next?
The Tar Heels will travel to Raleigh on Sunday for a rematch with No. 8 N.C. State at 6 p.m. In the first meeting, on Jan. 9 in Chapel Hill, UNC upset the then-undefeated Wolfpack, 66-60.
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