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Saturday September 18th

UNC women's basketball falls to Virginia Tech, 66-54, for second straight ACC loss

UNC senior center Janelle Bailey (44) attempts a layup in Carmichael Arena on Jan. 14, 2021 in Chapel Hill, N.C. The Tar Heels lost to the Hokies 66-54.
Buy Photos UNC senior center Janelle Bailey (44) attempts a layup in Carmichael Arena on Jan. 14, 2021 in Chapel Hill, N.C. The Tar Heels lost to the Hokies 66-54.

The North Carolina women’s basketball (7-4, 2-4 ACC) team fell to Virginia Tech (7-4, 2-4) on Thursday, 66-54, despite stand out performances by first-year Deja Kelly and senior Janelle Bailey. The Hokies' win gave them their first since Dec. 10.

What happened?

After opening the first quarter with a quick four points, the Tar Heels did not score again until midway through the frame. Graduate student Stephanie Watts picked up two fouls in the first three minutes of the game, sending her to the bench. An eight-point run by the Hokies forced UNC to call a timeout with six minutes left in the quarter. A 3-pointer by graduate student Petra Holešínská and a pair of free throws by Bailey helped the Tar Heels get back in the game, and a 3-pointer from first-year Kennedy Todd-Williams with less than a minute left in the quarter tied the game at 15. 

Todd-Williams kept her momentum, starting the second quarter with a fast break layup and another 3-pointer. Virginia Tech went on a six-point run halfway through the second quarter and successfully held North Carolina off of the scoreboard. Kelly snapped this scoring drought with a jumper, but the Tar Heels went on a three minute drought to close out the quarter. A 3-pointer from the Hokies at the buzzer brought the third quarter score to 27-24 entering the break. 

Virginia Tech put UNC in foul trouble early in the third quarter, with the Tar Heels tallying three fouls in the first three minutes. Resulting free throws followed by a 3-pointer from the Hokies extended their lead. 

After more than three minutes, Watts scored the Tar Heels’ first two points of the half, bringing the score to 33-26. The Hokies responded with another 3-pointer, putting them ahead by double-digits for the first time in the game. A pair of free throws by Bailey and a fast break layup by first-year Anya Poole kept the Tar Heels in the game, but the Hokies quickly responded with points at the free throw line. Virginia Tech went on a 10-0 run near to close the third quarter, bringing their lead to 52-36 entering the final frame. 

The fourth quarter began with back-to-back 3-pointers by sophomore Ariel Young and Holešínská. The Tar Heels held the Hokies to just one field goal in the first half of the period, and consecutive layups by Kelly and first-year Alyssa Ustby brought the score to 56-48, cutting was was once a 16-point deficit in half.

With UNC in the bonus, Kelly made a pair of free throws, but Virginia Tech answered with a 3-pointer. Kelly sank two more sets of free throws, but after each set Virginia Tech responded with another basket. Down 10 with less than two minutes to go, the Tar Heels were held off by the Hokies and lost 66-54.

Who stood out? 

While the team struggled to hit shots, shooting at just a 27 percent clip from the field, Kelly and Bailey were consistent in tallying points from the free throw line. Kelly and Bailey went 7-8 and 5-5 from the line, respectively. Kelly and Bailey were also UNC's highest scorers, putting up 15 and 11 points, respectively. 

When was it decided?

Although North Carolina trailed by double-digits for most of the fourth quarter, the Tar Heels shrank the deficit to six with less than three minutes to play. The Hokies didn’t put the game away until they scored a layup to bring their lead to 10 with under two minutes remaining. At this point, the Tar Heels did not have time to fight back. 

Why does it matter?

Against Miami last time out, the Tar Heels posted their worst shooting percentage of the season at 31 percent. On Thursday, they still couldn’t find their shooting stroke in shooting a new low from the field. It will be necessary for North Carolina to improve its efficiency if it hopes to compete as ACC play continues. 

When do they play next?

The Tar Heels will face No. 24 Syracuse on the road on Jan. 19 at noon.

@evemaddock

@dthsports | sports@dailytarheel.com

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