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Saturday November 26th

Shayla Bennett scores career high in UNC women's basketball's 76-70 loss to Hokies

<p>Senior guard Shayla Bennett (22) runs upcourt at the Carmichael Arena in a game against Virginia Tech on Sunday, Feb. 9, 2020. Bennett scored a career-high 26 points and eight rebounds. UNC lost to Virginia Tech 72-63.</p>
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Senior guard Shayla Bennett (22) runs upcourt at the Carmichael Arena in a game against Virginia Tech on Sunday, Feb. 9, 2020. Bennett scored a career-high 26 points and eight rebounds. UNC lost to Virginia Tech 72-63.

A career-high 26 points and eight rebounds from guard Shayla Bennett on Sunday weren't enough to carry the UNC women's basketball team in its 76-70 loss to Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Va.

What happened?

The momentum shifted between the Tar Heels (11-3, 2-1 ACC) and the Hokies (11-3, 1-2 ACC) the entire game. Each time one team was able to create some separation on the scoreboard, the opposing squad would claw its way back into the competition.

North Carolina jumped out to an early 15-9 lead in the first quarter behind six points from Bennett and another six from first-year forward Malu Tshitenge.

However, a quartet of turnovers and a barrage of missed shots saw that lead quickly vanish, and the Hokies marched ahead, 24-21, midway through the second quarter. Despite coming multiple close encounters, the Tar Heels wouldn't take the lead back for the rest of the game.

A missed jumper from Bennett in the closing seconds of the second quarter meant North Carolina faced a 36-32 deficit at halftime. UNC had just five players record points in the first half compared to seven for Virginia Tech.

Bennett's 10 points and five rebounds were both team-highs at the break. Junior forward Trinity Baptiste led both squads with 14 first-half points on 6-11 shooting from the field.

The Hokies blew the game open in the third quarter when they opened with an 18-4 run to extend their lead to 54-36, the largest deficit the Tar Heels have faced this season.

A timeout allowed UNC to gain its composure before North Carolina responded with a balanced scoring effort from four starters to cut Virginia Tech's lead to 58-49 heading into the final quarter.

Bennett scored 13 of her 26 points in the fourth quarter and outscored her teammates by five in the period. Despite her best efforts, UNC's comeback fell short in the team's six-point loss.

Who stood out?

Bennett was the star of the afternoon for the Tar Heels. The senior played all 40 minutes against the Hokies, shooting 9-19 from the field and 4-9 from beyond the arc.

In addition to her career-high 26 points, the guard's eight rebounds were the most since she grabbed 10 boards when UNC faced Charleston Southern on Nov. 15.

When was it decided?

Virginia Tech's offensive assault to open the second half proved to be too strong for the Tar Heels to overcome.

The Hokies shot 7-9 from the field during the impressive run and knocked down four 3-pointers to take a commanding lead.

Why does it matter?

A win over Virginia Tech would've secured North Carolina's first 3-0 start in conference play since the 2012-13 season. With a top-10 matchup against the Wolfpack looming in the near future, UNC desperately needed to head into Thursday with the momentum that comes with a three-game winning streak.

When do they play next?

The Tar Heels will return to Carmichael Arena for a rivalry game with No. 9 N.C. State on Thursday at 7 p.m.

@McMastersJ

@DTHSports | sports@dailytarheel.com

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