If improving its shooting percentages was on the North Carolina women's basketball team's list of New Year’s resolutions, the Tar Heels still have some work to do.
UNC mustered a season-low shooting percentage in its game against Miami on Jan. 10, making 31.6 percent of its shots from the floor. Then, the Tar Heels took it a step farther and shot just 27 percent from the field in Thursday’s 66-54 loss against Virginia Tech.
First-year guard Deja Kelly led the team in made field goals at four, but nearly half of her points came from the free-throw line, where she went 7-8.
“I think between this game and last game, the biggest thing that hurt us was our offense,” Kelly said. “We weren’t shooting great percentages last game. (Last game) we didn't shoot well from the three and this game we didn’t shoot well from the two. That’s just an offensive thing within our team that we gotta get going.”
Head coach Courtney Banghart noted that it was UNC’s first time seeing man-to-man defense against an opposing team in over a month, which may have contributed to the team’s offensive difficulties.
After facing that defense, Banghart said she read off the individual shooting percentages to the team postgame. As she went down the list, the numbers were uniformly disappointing.
While Virginia Tech’s strength was in the way the Hokies facilitated their play, Banghart pointed out that may be an area where the Tar Heels are lacking — leading to poorer shot attempts compared to their competition.
“I think that because of how they’ve been shooting, it just tightens them up a little bit," Banghart said. "The ball’s easier to move when you’re making shots, and that obviously didn’t happen.”
Going 17-63 from the field clearly made it difficult for UNC to keep up with the Hokies, but the Tar Heels’ offense also put a great amount of pressure on North Carolina to perform on defense.
Until Thursday’s game, the Tar Heels had yet to be out-rebounded in a game this season. The Hokies ended that streak, out-rebounding the Tar Heels 50-35.
“We shot 27 percent, so that gives them 50 defensive rebounds,” Banghart said. “If you shoot at a very low percentage, then you’re gonna give the other team a ton of defensive rebounds. We gave them a lot.”
Couple Virginia Tech's dominance in both offensive and defensive rebounds with North Carolina’s shots not falling, and you have an almost perfect recipe for the Hokies to come out on top.
“I think we were really focused on boxing out their bigger people, as far as (Elizabeth) Kitley and (Asiah Jones), so they had their guards," Kelly said. "I think (Cayla King) crashed a lot, she got a few offensive rebounds, and we just didn’t secure the rebound off of their misses, which hurt us."
Even though North Carolina seemed to be in foul trouble throughout the game, forcing the team to bench players and face Virginia Tech’s 84.6 percent free throw shooting percentage, Banghart did not seem to think fouls played a significant role in Thursday’s loss.
As the team struggled to get buckets, foul trouble was the least of the North Carolina's worries.
“If you have a guy who’s playing really well, you don’t wanna let them get in foul trouble, because you have to play without them," Banghart said. "There weren’t a lot of guys out there we couldn’t live without today, unfortunately.”
Starting off with two losses, the beginning of the new year has been rough for the Tar Heels. But the team will look to shake off its shooting woes before facing the Syracuse Orange next week.
“We’ll just have to continue to help them get better,” Banghart said. “I told them there’s two ways to approach adversity: one is you fold, and the other is you get better. And I think this group will continue to get better.”
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