Despite some moments of hope and solid performances from first-year players, the North Carolina women's basketball team (5-2, 0-2 ACC) fell to the Miami Hurricanes (4-1, 1-1 ACC) on Monday, depriving the Tar Heels of their first conference win of the season.
After postponing its game against Louisville, the UNC women’s basketball team traveled to the University of Miami in search of its first conference win in a last-minute matchup. In last year's contest against the Hurricanes, the Tar Heels came away with a 78-58 victory.
UNC started out strong on defense with a solid man-to-man setup, but the Tar Heels struggled on offense. While they kept it close during the first period, ending the quarter down two at 13-11, Miami dominated on offense in the second frame. Miami knocked down six 3-pointers in the first half, two of which came from senior guard Kelsey Marshall. Marshall has led the Hurricanes in 3-point shooting every year she has played for the team.
UNC won the rebounding battle in the first half, with first-year forward Anya Poole leading the team at eight boards, but the second quarter ended with Miami leading, 33-23. Coming into the second half, the Tar Heels looked to find more scoring opportunities.
UNC came back strong in the third quarter, dominating Miami’s defensive press with clean passes and taking the ball into the paint. Still, with three more 3-pointers during the period, Miami held onto its lead, ending the third frame leading by six.
Miami took advantage of its lead in the fourth quarter by slowing down its offense and running down the clock. UNC continued to push the ball on offense, but was often unable to get the shots it wanted to go in.
Since both teams were in the foul bonus as the clock wound down, a few free throws could've been the deciding factor. But with 38 seconds left, first-year guard Deja Kelly hit a clutch three, bringing the Tar Heels within four points of the Hurricanes. It was all in vain, though, and with each team fouling on its last possession, Miami claimed its 67-63 victory as the clock expired.
Who stood out?
Senior center Janelle Bailey played an important role in the Tar Heels' effort, registering her first double-double on the season with 16 points and 13 rebounds.
Three first-years in particular also helped propel the Tar Heels forward in today’s game, with Poole coming second to Bailey with 10 boards and guard Alyssa Ustby leading the team in scoring with a career-high 17 points.
Kelly also impressed, following Ustby with 16 points and leading the team in both minutes played and three-pointers — her three deep shots being the only three the team hit all game.
When was it decided?
Miami consistently led the game and ultimately carried their lead through the end of the game, with Hurricanes forward Destiny Harden finishing with a career high 20 points and 12 rebounds.
However, the Tar Heels were still able to keep it close until the very end, when a four-point cushion let Miami run the clock out, sealing its win and leaving head coach Courtney Banghart still thirsting for her first conference win of the season.
Why does it matter?
With both teams looking for their first ACC win, UNC fell short, allowing Miami to gain their first ACC win for the season. After a shaky end to last season's conference schedule, the Tar Heels need to gain some early momentum if they have any hope of making it through this year's whole slate.
When do they play next?
The Tar Heels will take on the Syracuse Orange in Carmichael Arena at 8 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 17.
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