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UNC women's basketball comes back down to earth, falls to Florida State 78-64

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UNC's women's basketball coach Courtney Banghart talks with junior center Janelle Bailey (30) during a game against N.C. State on Thursday, Jan. 9, 2020. UNC broke NC State's undefeated streak with a score of 66-60.

After an impressive upset win over ninth-ranked rival NC State in Chapel Hill on Thursday night, the North Carolina women’s basketball team (12-4, 3-2 ACC) was unable to secure a second top-25 win in four days when they travelled to Tallahassee to face No. 11 Florida State (15-2, 4-2 ACC). The Seminoles downed the Tar Heels 78-64, outpacing them on the offensive end and shooting a season-best 57 percent while UNC was held to a mere 38 percent shooting.

What happened?

While UNC entered Sunday’s contest coming off an upset win on Thursday, Florida State was reeling from a surprising loss to unranked Georgia Tech the same night.

Both teams came out of the gates hot, trading 3-point buckets to begin a first half that would see Tar Heel senior guard Taylor Koenen rain four triples. The game remained air-tight for most of the first quarter, with neither team gaining more than a five-point advantage. 

The tides of upset seemed to be turning in favor of the Tar Heels early in the second quarter, who led FSU 23-19 behind the low post play of junior Janelle Bailey and continued scoring dominance of Koenen. However, it was at this point when the game changed fundamentally for the surging Tar Heels. 

Behind the scoring attack of senior guards Nicki Ekhomu and Nausia Woolfolk, the Seminoles pulled off a 21-10 run to end the half and led the Tar Heels 40-33 going into the break. 

This eight-minute scoring run proved to be the difference maker in this Sunday afternoon matchup, as FSU kept the hot hand after the half. After shooting only 43 percent before the break, Florida State embarked on a second half offensive tear that saw them shoot 71 percent from the field and extend their lead to 17 with 4:38 left in the third quarter.

Still, UNC showcased its own offensive prowess in the game's final minutes. A 10-2 run spearheaded by sharpshooting from Koenen and junior guard Mia Church pulled the game within reach for the Tar Heels, who trailed FSU 67-61 with 4:08 remaining.

Despite this quick barrage, a series of fouls and quick buckets from the Seminoles gave the home to the edge they needed to ice the game. 

Who stood out?

Koenen’s shooting performance on Sunday not only pushed her to the top of the box score, but also etched her name in the UNC record books. 

The 6-foot-2 sniper poured in 22 points and buoyed the Tar Heel offense for most of the game, especially from long distance. Koenen’s six made 3-pointers is a team record for the most in a single game, and her final three-ball also marked her 1,000th career point, making her the 38th player in team history to do so. 

Despite a disappointing result, this matchup against the Seminoles proved that Koenen will be remembered as a strong scorer for the Tar Heels in years to come.

When was it decided?

Florida State’s 21-10 run to end the first half gave the team the momentum it needed to take a comfortable lead in the second half. While the Tar Heels put together a valiant comeback effort, lackluster defense late in both halves prevented them from capturing a second consecutive upset win.

Why does it matter?

Sunday’s showing proved that while Courtney Banghart’s team can be dangerous at home against ranked opponents, they haven't been as impressive on the road. The Tar Heels are 8-1 in Carmichael Arena this season, but just 1-3 in away games.

When do they play next?

North Carolina will return to action on Thursday in Carmichael Arena at 6 p.m. against Miami, looking to improve to 4-2 in ACC play.

@fleetwilson

@DTHSports | sports@dailytarheel.com

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