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The Daily Tar Heel

UNC women's basketball falls to Wake Forest, 83-73, in first round of ACC Tournament


UNC senior guard Taylor Koenen (1) dribbles toward the net in Carmichael Arena on Sunday, March 1, 2020. The Blue Devils beat the Tar Heels 73-54.

The North Carolina women’s basketball team almost certainly saw its season end on Wednesday with a first-round ACC Tournament loss to Wake Forest, 83-73.

What happened?

After the Tar Heels struck first, gaining a 4-0 lead, they maintained a lead through the game’s first five minutes. Wake Forest found its first lead midway through the period by way of a 3-pointer from Ivana Raca and maintained a slight edge into the first break, taking a 20-17 lead into the start of the second quarter. 

Forward Janelle Bailey made a return to the floor after missing the last three games due to injury, and the junior quickly amassed three fouls and spent the majority of the half sidelined.  

Playing in what was likely her last game with UNC, senior Taylor Koenen caught fire in the first half. The guard notched 14 points on 60 percent shooting for the Tar Heels in the first half and led the team on its way to a 37-35 deficit going into halftime. 

Koenen continued her offensive tear in the second half, but the Tar Heels remained behind the Demon Deacons. UNC kept the game close, largely by offensive contributions from Koenen and fellow seniors Madinah Muhammad and Shayla Bennett, with all of them notching at least six points in the quarter. Despite this offensive surge, North Carolina went into the final period of play down 61-56.  

To start the fourth quarter, the Demon Deacons went on a massive 18-5 run that spelled the end for the Tar Heels. With a 79-61 lead going into the final five minutes of play, UNC went on a run of its own in search of a comeback, but the damage had been done.

With Wake Forest only adding five points to the scoreboard over five minutes, North Carolina cut its deficit down to 10, but it wasn't enough as Wake Forest moved on to the second round with an 83-73 victory.

Who stood out?

Koenen and Bennett were phenomenal in what was likely their last game in a UNC jersey. The seniors combined for 45 points and a respectable 55 percent from beyond the arch. While their offensive output wasn’t enough for North Carolina to get the win, their individual performances displayed resilience in the face of adversity. 

When was it decided?

Wake Forest’s long run in the fourth quarter put the nail in the coffin for UNC. While the Tar Heels never had a true grip on the lead, the game remained within reach until this point. Even with intense efforts for North Carolina in the game’s closing minutes, it was too little, too late. 

Why does it matter?

North Carolina started the 2019-20 campaign with its best opening streak since 2014-15, a season in which the team earned a spot in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament. With the promise of the season’s opening in mind, UNC went into an away matchup against Duke third in the ACC at the beginning of February. After a 71-61 loss in Durham, the Tar Heels saw their season collapse. 

UNC carried a seven-game losing streak into the ACC Tournament and lengthened the streak against the Demon Deacons. In head coach Courtney Banghart's first season in Chapel Hill, the team underwent a late season collapse. 

Now, with NCAA Tournament selection looming, the Tar Heels are on the outside looking in, unlikely to receive a bid to the tournament. 

When do they play next?

Barring a miraculous at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament, UNC’s season is likely over. Looking forward, the Tar Heels will bring in the No. 11 recruiting class in the nation and look for sustained improvement in Banghart’s second season at the helm.


@DTHSports |

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