So often in sports, momentum decides outcomes.
A single hustle, missed shot or fastbreak point can lead to a scoring run that puts the game out of contention. Against No. 18 Georgia Tech, the No. 20 UNC women’s basketball team was the victim of one of these plays.
With 4:11 left in the first quarter and the Georgia Tech leading 11-7, Yellow Jackets guard Lotta-Maj Lahtinen stole the ball from transfer guard Carlie Littlefield and, a few moments later, laid the ball in to make the score 13-7.
In the last three quarters, the Yellow Jackets outscored the Tar Heels by three points. In the first quarter they outscored them by 14 — eventually losing 55-38.
The game started with the Tar Heels being down but staying in touching distance. Following the steal by Lahtinen, the Yellow Jackets outscored the Tar Heels in the first quarter 12-2. The quarter ended with a 23-9 Yellow Jacket lead.
The Tar Heels would spend the rest of the game trying to make a comeback, but poor shooting and 15 turnovers meant the Tar Heels were never able to generate any positive momentum and could not score more than 10 points in any quarter. The game ended with Georgia Tech extending its lead to 22 points towards the end of the fourth quarter and ensuring a dominant victory in Atlanta.
Who stood out?
Georgia Tech’s fifth-year forward Digna Strautmane made a significant impact on the game with 14 points to go with 11 rebounds. On a day when both teams struggled to shoot the ball, Strautmane went 4-8 from deep. Lahtinen contributed as well with 12 points herself and 6 assists.
For the Tar Heels, sophomore guard Kennedy Todd-Williams was the only player to score in double digits with 10 points and two of the team’s three 3-pointers. Littlefield had the teams only other 3-pointer and ended with five points and five rebounds.
When was it decided?
The game was largely decided in the first quarter, with neither team able to generate any significant scoring runs in the rest of the game. The Tar Heels were not able to shoot over 36 percent from the field in any quarter during the game and had 15 turnovers to only seven assists. The Georgia Tech defense was simply too good for the Tar Heels, who also could not seem to hit their shots.
The Yellow Jackets did not have a particularly good game shooting after the first quarter either, going 27.5 percent from the field in the final three quarters of the game, but they were able to keep the Tar Heels at a distance and maintain their lead for an emphatic victory.
Why does it matter?
In a season that started 13-0, the Tar Heels are 2-3 in their last five games and still have to face a gauntlet of conference opponents. The Tar Heels entered the game ranked 20th in the country and hoped that a win would push them into the teens, but will now have to hope that they won’t drop out of the polls. The team will need to figure out their issues — and fast — if they hope to correct the recent slump they have been in.
When do they play next?
The team will travel down Tobacco Road for their next matchup to take on No. 21 Duke on Thursday, Jan. 27 where they will hope to have a bounce-back win against a ranked conference foe.
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