The North Carolina women’s basketball team fell on the road to Wake Forest, 57-54, Thursday night after entering the game at 5-0, going undefeated through non-conference play.
In the first quarter, the Tar Heels appeared to be keeping up the defensive dominance that had carried them to a perfect record. Dominating the glass and keeping the Demon Deacons to the perimeter, the Tar Heels seemed to be in control when they were up 25-19 at the half.
The second half, however, told an entirely different story. Following a bucket from UNC first-year forward Anya Poole, Wake Forest came out of the gates firing to go on a 6-0 run and never looked back. The second half saw the Tar Heels lose their dominance on the boards and their control of the game as they floundered on offense.
“The tougher team won that one,” UNC head coach Courtney Banghart said.
Although their troubles were on display more in the final two quarters, the Tar Heels struggled to get much of anything going on offense all game.
A poor shooting night combined with 15 turnovers led to North Carolina's worst scoring performance of the season. After averaging 92 points per game through its first five games, North Carolina managed only 54 points against the Demon Deacons. Banghart pointed to settling for perimeter shots instead of electing to take it into the post as the reason for the team's offensive woes.
Defensively, the Tar Heels excelled, especially in the first half. For the game, North Carolina held Wake Forest to just 21-60 from the floor and 2-21 from 3-point range.
“Defensively, we did a good job. If you hold a team to 35 percent from the field and nine percent from three, you should win that game," Banghart said.
The bright spot for the Tar Heels in the loss was Poole. In her conference debut, Poole put up 12 points and 11 rebounds on her way to her first career double-double. Even as a first-year, Poole hopes her play can inspire her teammates to give it their all.
“If I do something well, it can fuel my teammates,” Poole said. “I just did what I could to be aggressive on offense and on defense.”
North Carolina relied heavily on its first-years for offensive production. Poole and the rest of that unit combined for 25 points for the game, nearly half of Tar Heels' total points.
“Our seniors weren’t enough tonight," Banghart said. "They weren’t good leaders, they didn’t play with toughness, they just didn’t do what we needed them to do. We require the freshmen to give us a lot."
Graduate transfer Petra Holešínská echoed her coach's sentiments and called on her fellow seniors to step up now that the team's conference slate is underway.
“Their seniors took over and ours didn’t, and that’s on us," Holešínská said.
Despite suffering their first loss of the season to start ACC play off on the wrong foot, the Tar Heels are looking forward instead of backward.
With just a couple of days until their matchup on the road against No. 2 Louisville, the Tar Heels have a lot of issues to figure out very quickly if they want to avoid dropping even more early conference games.
“Every single one of our players were soft, offensively," Banghart said. "If you are soft in this league, you are going to lose.”
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