The North Carolina women's basketball team (5-1, 0-1 ACC) traveled to Winston-Salem, North Carolina, on Thursday to face Wake Forest (4-1, 1-0) in the Tar Heels' ACC opener. The Demon Deacons defeated UNC, 57-54, for the Tar Heels' first loss of the season.
The previously undefeated Tar Heels relied on their rebounding and stifling defense to give them an early lead, out-rebounding the Demon Deacons 24-16 in the first half. A defensive battle in the first quarter saw both teams struggle to find a rhythm on offense. Poor shooting plagued both teams in the opening half, shooting a combined 1-19 from three point range.
Despite the poor performance on the perimeter, the Tar Heels did enough in the first half to take a 25-19 lead. First-years Deja Kelly and Anya Poole carried the Tar Heels through the first half offensively. Kelly led the team with seven first half points and Poole with seven first half rebounds.
Wake Forest came out of the gates firing on all cylinders in the second half, going on a 6-0 run to quickly tighten UNC's lead. The Demon Deacons did not look back from there, hanging with the Tar Heels for the rest of the third quarter and then taking the lead in the fourth.
North Carolina's defense did not seem to have an answer for the Demon Deacons' offense in the second half, allowing 38 points. Continuing to struggle to produce offensively, the Tar Heels began to fall behind in the fourth quarter. The Tar Heels did get a chance to send the game into overtime at the buzzer, but an Ariel Young three pointer came up just short.
Who stood out?
North Carolina's most impressive performance came from Poole. In the first-year's first ACC matchup, she led the Tar Heels in both scoring and rebounding. The 12 point 11 rebound performance was Poole’s first career double-double. Poole crashed the boards early and often for the Tar Heels, helping to keep the game close as Wake Forest went on its second half run.
When was it decided?
The Tar Heel’s first half lead quickly vanished in the opening minutes of the second, and the game remained close until the fourth quarter. The matchup was all but over after a 11-3 run by Wake Forest midway through the fourth quarter left the Tar Heels trailing by nine points with just two minutes remaining. The Tar Heels did manage to keep it close, but a last ditch effort proved to be too little and too late.
Why does it matter?
The loss to Wake Forest moves the Tar Heels to 0-1 in ACC play and marks the end of a five-game winning streak to start out the season. The Tar Heels are now 0-3 in their last three games against the Demon Deacons. For a team nearing top 25 territory early in the season, this loss could set a young North Carolina side back a bit.
When do they play next?
The Tar Heels will travel to Louisville on Sunday to play the No. 2 Cardinals at 4:00 p.m.
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