The North Carolina women’s basketball team is strikingly young and still finding its rhythm as a group.
The team fell short of victory at No. 4 North Carolina State on Sunday, stumbling through each quarter trying to catch up. The Tar Heels managed to tie the score several times in the first quarter, and even took the lead, but ultimately couldn’t claw their way to a win after getting down big, losing 82-63.
Shooting proved to be an issue for UNC in this game. In the first two quarters, the team went 0-12 from 3-point range. Performance from the field wasn’t much better — in the first quarter, the team made four of its 16 shot attempts, and in the second quarter, 4-17. Head coach Courtney Banghart doesn't chalk the team’s loss up to its shooting percentage, though.
“We’re a better team than to just say, ‘We didn’t shoot well,’” Banghart said. “There’s a rhythmic way to play basketball, and we were out of rhythm for sure in the first half.”
The subpar performance from 3-point range came to an end in the third quarter after graduate guard Petra Holešínská got things rolling. In the fourth quarter, the team made 4-7 shots from beyond the arc and shot 43.8 percent from the field overall.
It took the Tar Heels a while to slot into their respective places on the court, but once they did, they took off. Forty-two of their 63 points came from the last two quarters. The team tried to make a comeback, with its shooting percentage vastly improving in the second half. But though the Tar Heels found that rhythm, it wasn’t enough to make up for the first two quarters.
First-year guard Deja Kelly led the team with 14 points, proving how essential she has already become to this team. In just her first year in Chapel Hill, she has averaged 9.8 points and 2.8 assists per game, good for fourth and second on the team, respectively. Kelly, along with Banghart, was not pleased with the team’s performance.
“They kind of took us out of our rhythm,” Kelly said. “Obviously they came with a different game plan than they did last game, and I think we just didn’t do a good job of adjusting to it.”
N.C. State’s Jakia Brown-Turner was imperative to the Wolfpack's victory. She led the Wolfpack with a career-high 25 points, as well as going 4-5 from deep en route to a 10-16 shooting performance.
In her fourth season at UNC, senior center Janelle Bailey is looking forward to the team improving each week. Bailey has had an impressive career at North Carolina and has continued to prove her dominance in the game. Coming off of their last victory at N.C. State, Bailey said she thinks the Tar Heels weren’t responding quickly enough to the Wolfpack’s new strategy.
“I know this group is hungry all the time and that we want to get better, so I’m sure that we’ll watch the film,” Bailey said. “We’ll be disappointed, but definitely just looking forward to the next week.”
Banghart is also optimistic about the team moving forward. Some Tar Heel wins in the last stretch of the season could be the difference between the team playing in the NCAA Tournament or watching it from home.
“Any team that rests on one game — win or loss — is pretty weak, and I would not put this group in the ‘weak’ category,” Banghart said. “They’ve come a long way, and what they’ve done this year is hard. I know we’ll get their best version on Monday leading into a big game against Georgia Tech.”