The North Carolina women's basketball team (12-9, 7-9 ACC) defeated Georgia Tech (13-7, 11-6 ACC) by a score of 84-59 on Thursday night in Chapel Hill. In doing so, the Tar Heels were able to give senior Janelle Bailey, along with graduates Petra Holešínská and Stephanie Watts, a proper Senior Night send-off.
The first quarter was very much a feeling-out process, with both teams shooting slightly above 40% from the field and a narrow 3-point UNC lead by its end.
That being said, the second quarter saw the Tar Heels’ level improve drastically. They shot 60% percent from the field and 50% from beyond the arc, holding the Yellow Jackets to 23% and 33% respectively. By halftime the scoreboard read 46-24 in North Carolina’s favor.
The third quarter was in many ways a continuation of the second for UNC, but Georgia Tech did manage to chip away at the lead, as they decreased the deficit to 16 points by quarter's end.
Despite the Yellow Jackets’ best efforts, this lead proved to be enough to ensure a Tar Heel victory and allowed head coach Courtney Banghart to empty her bench, making this Senior Night a night to remember for everyone on the roster.
Who stood out?
First-year guard Deja Kelly, fresh off an ACC Freshman of the Week selection, matched her career high Thursday night with a 22-point performance. Kelly was perfect from 3-point range and from the free throw line in her 33 minutes on the court.
Bailey, a pre-season All-ACC selection, also played well. The center posted her fifth double-double of the season with 12 points and 10 rebounds in her last game in Carmichael Arena. This was Bailey’s first Senior Night victory following three consecutive seasons of UNC losing its last home game of the season, which surely motivated the senior's solid performance.
“I knew that this game mattered,” Bailey said. “I had it in the back of my mind all week.”
When was it decided?
After jumping out to a 22-point lead by halftime, the only hope for the Yellow Jackets was for UNC’s quality of play to drop dramatically in the second half. Such a deterioration never came, meaning that the game was effectively decided with the conclusion of the second quarter - a quarter that saw the Tar Heels outscore Georgia Tech 29-10.
Why does it matter?
The Tar Heels only gave up 59 points on Thursday night, their fewest points allowed to an ACC opponent in a victory this season. Banghart said this win gave her optimism as her team approaches the postseason.
“I give our kids a lot of credit,” Banghart said. “They’ve really grown defensively, there’s a toughness to them, and I think they take pride in being hard to score on as they showed tonight”
When do they play next?
The North Carolina women’s basketball team will be back on the court on Sunday, Feb. 28 at 2 p.m. at Virginia Tech, after the originally-scheduled game against Duke was cancelled when the Blue Devils’ season came to a premature December ending.
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