RALEIGH — Foul trouble doomed the North Carolina women’s basketball team in an 76-68 loss to rival N.C. State on the road on Sunday night.
Janelle Bailey and Malu Tshitenge were relegated to the bench for large stretches of the Tar Heels’ defeat, which dropped them to 14-6 and 5-4 in the ACC. The No. 8 Wolfpack (19-1, 8-1 ACC) were led by forward Elissa Cunane (22 points, 17 rebounds).
N.C. State’s Cunane struggled in the teams’ first matchup, so the Wolfpack fed their star player early and often Sunday night. It worked well — N.C. State went on a 10-0 run and, more notably, drew two fouls on UNC’s Janelle Bailey.
Later in the first, the Tar Heels went on a small run of their own — punctuated by a Taylor Koenen 3-pointer — and trimmed their deficit to 17-11.
Koenen stayed hot in the second quarter, scoring a quick seven in five minutes to combat N.C. State’s Cunane and Aislinn Konig. And head coach Courtney Banghart took a risk in subbing Bailey back in — that backfired at the 5:20 mark, when the junior was called for her third foul.
North Carolina found itself even more shorthanded when fellow big Malu Tshitenge was called for her third foul minutes later (frustration from that call and others led to a Banghart technical).
With its two starting forwards relegated to the bench, UNC leaned even further on Koenen, who finished the half with 16 and kept the Tar Heels within striking range. N.C. State led 37-30 at half.
UNC came out of halftime on a 7-0 run to cut its deficit to three points. With Bailey and Tshitenge back in the game, the Tar Heels were able to limit Cunane’s impact early in the second half. And by the first media timeout of the third quarter at the 4:35, the Wolfpack’s 6-foot-5 center had missed all four of her second-half field goal attempts.