The end of the 2019-20 campaign was not one to remember for the North Carolina women's basketball team.
After starting the season at a perfect 8-0, the Tar Heels lost each of their last eight games. The poor end to the season saw UNC fail to advance past the first round of the ACC Tournament for the first time since the 2015-16 season.
In her first year at the helm, head coach Courtney Banghart's team's late struggles were partly due to a lack of depth, leading to injuries and fatigue.
“I had the same starting lineup all of last year," Banghart said. “By the last six games of the season, Malu (Tshitenge) and Janelle (Bailey) were both on minute restrictions.”
Tshitenge and Bailey were the team's starters in the post for much of last season. They were the team’s two best rebounders and two of the top-five scorers. Both Tshitenge and Bailey will be back for the 2020-21 season, and Tshitenge said she will come back stronger than before.
“Last year, I was scared of aggravating my injury, and it affected my game,” Tshitenge said.
In the offseason, Tshitenge had hip surgery to fix this long-term problem and said she now feels better than ever. Last season, Banghart said she didn’t grasp the impact of Tshitenge’s injury but is excited by the prospect of having the sophomore fully healthy.
“She is running a lot better, which is great," Banghart said. "She will look physically better this season because of the surgery.”
The Tar Heels will also rely on the play of Janelle Bailey, one of the bright spots from last year's team. After averaging 14.5 points and 9.3 rebounds last year, Bailey feels even more confident entering this season.