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UNC women's basketball rolls with the punches in blowout win over Miami

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UNC junior center Janelle Bailey (30) passes the ball to a teammate during the Tar Heels' 78-58 victory over the Miami Hurricanes on Thursday, Jan. 16, 2020 at Carmichael Arena. Bailey finished the game with 28 points and 15 rebounds.

Jabs, hooks and sometimes even sucker punches. 

Good teams, especially in the ACC, know how to endure each of these blows throughout the regular season. First-year head coach Courtney Banghart’s Tar Heels certainly do. 

After riding the high of a europhic win over rival No. 9 N.C. State last week, UNC women's basketball fell back to Earth when it lost to another top-15 opponent in Florida State on Sunday by double digits. But Thursday night against Miami, the Tar Heels stitched up their wounds and hopped back in the ring.

They kept fighting, eventually hitting the knockout punch in a 78-58 win over the Hurricanes. 

“In the ACC, people are gonna hit you and punch you,” senior guard Taylor Koenen said. “So if we can withstand that, which we have and we’re known to do, then we aren’t really panicked.” 

Though at first, Miami gave UNC plenty of reason to panic.

The Tar Heels fought back from an six-point deficit at the end of the first quarter, but the Hurricanes were quick to counter. Miami held UNC without a field goal in the final 2:44 of the first half to take a 38-37 lead into halftime. 

To open the third quarter, the Hurricanes strung together an 8-2 run. In that same six-minute stretch, the Tar Heels had shot just 1-for-6 from the floor. Then came the under-four media timeout. 

“I just sort of bit into them a little bit, told them that energy matters,” Banghart recalled of her message to the team in that huddle. “They responded really well.” 

Sure enough, UNC stepped back onto the court with a different energy. All in a little over a minute span: Koenen found junior center Janelle Bailey under the basket for an easy layup, Koenen stole the ball and scored herself and first-year guard Kennady Tucker had a steal and an assist to senior guard Shayla Bennett on a layup. 

The Tar Heels wouldn’t stop swinging, either. 

Miami needed a 3-pointer from junior guard Mykea Gray to stop the bleeding, cutting its deficit to eight points with 5:47 left in the game. 

But by then, Bailey — who finished with a game-high 28 points and 15 rebounds — had already found her rhythm. So had Koenen, who chipped in 16 points and seven boards.  

“Taylor was like, ‘C’mon, me and you,’” Bailey said. “And we just went on a run. Right then, we knew we need this game. This game’s gonna matter later in the season.” 

It all led up to that knockout punch. The one that no one but the Tar Heels knew they were capable of delivering.

UNC finished off Miami with a 17-5 run — which Bailey and Koenen led with seven combined points — over the final five minutes of the contest. 

With each Miami missed jumper, turnover and frustration foul, it became exceedingly obvious that the Hurricanes were down for the count. More importantly, it became clear why the Tar Heels so effortlessly rolled with the punches and never once panicked.

“We know we can do the same thing to another team,” Koenen said. “... We know that we have it in the back of our pocket.” 

@pupadhyaya_

@DTHSports | sports@dailytarheel.com

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