The No. 19 UNC women’s basketball team (13-1, 3-1 ACC) lost its season-opening win streak in a 72-45 loss against in-state rival No. 5 North Carolina State (13-2, 4-0 ACC) on Thursday night.
North Carolina’s title as one of the most high-scoring teams in the country was not visible on Thursday. While sophomore guard Deja Kelly was able to put up a solid 12 points in the period — for comparison, in the team’s last game, Kelly scored 18 in the first quarter — otherwise, the team’s scoring was limited and sloppy with most of the shots connecting with the rim rather than falling through the net.
The Wolfpack proved to be a strong 3-point shooting team, scoring 11-32 compared to UNC’s 5-21. The Tar Heel’s failed to score until five minutes into the game, by which time the Wolfpack was already up by 10.
The Wolfpack showed a great amount of power and energy as they went ran away with points, out-scoring the Tar Heels for the entirety of the game.
Sophomore guard Kennedy Todd-Williams seemed unable to lock in defensively, and while they attempted to chip away at the Wolfpack lead, they simultaneously allowed N.C. State numerous easy shots that only extended their lead. Wolfpack center Elissa Cunane was a menace to the Tar Heel defense, scoring 19 points, including knocking down several 3-pointers.
The Tar Heels trailed 40-23 at the half and were unable to find their rhythm as they transitioned into the second half. UNC only had 12 rebounds compared to N.C. State’s 32, which allowed them to be both dominant on the glass and high-scoring within the paint. The Tar Heels ended the game with 40 rebounds, compared to the Wolfpack's 53.
Who stood out?
Despite the game being overwhelmingly one-sided, Kelly tried to provide leadership to a seemingly unconfident UNC team. She played a competitive, energetic game scoring 21 points, although that was 10 shy of her career-high last game.
Sophomore guard Alyssa Utsby secured a double-double with 12 points and 12 rebounds, which, while impressive, was not enough to be able to compete with the toughness of the Pack and topple their defense.
When was it decided?
North Carolina was unable to climb back after the half when the Wolfpack essentially pulled away from the Tar Heel defense in the third quarter, scoring shots seamlessly. They led by over 20 points for both the third and fourth quarters. The efficiency of N.C. State's offense made it impossible for the Tar Heels to lead at any point of the game.
The team seemed unable to handle the tough environment in Reynolds Coliseum and allowed several runs on the N.C. State side on the way to a 27-point loss.
Why does it matter?
The Wolfpack broke UNC’s undefeated record with ease in arguably the Tar Heel's most difficult match-up of the season. This mark caused the Tar Heels to fall for the first time in ACC play. As they progress in more ACC play, this team will face more highly-ranked teams and will need to establish themselves as a team if they want to improve down the line.
Conference competition has been a problem for the Tar Heels over the last couple seasons, so they must move past this if they hope to restore a sense of momentum in the ACC>
When do they play next?
North Carolina is scheduled to play Virginia Tech at Carmichael Arena in Chapel Hill on Sunday, Jan. 9 at 6 p.m.
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