On Thursday night, UNC head coach Courtney Banghart began her postgame thoughts with an eye-opening statistic.
“We had a tough time matching Florida State’s physicality,” she said. “To give up 37 second-chance points — you’re not going to win a lot of those games if that’s what you’re going to give up.”
The No. 13 Tar Heels were dominated from start to finish by the Seminoles’ athleticism and speed in a 78-71 loss at home on Thursday evening.
With both teams shooting under 40 percent from the field, the battle on the boards became much more important. FSU clearly won this battle, pulling down 10 more rebounds than North Carolina, and generating nearly half of its offense in second-chance points.
While UNC is used to being undersized, the team's performance in its ACC opener was uncharacteristic. North Carolina ranks above FSU in rebounding margin, and more notably, the Tar Heels haven’t given up more than 11 second-chance points on the season.
“To combat size you have to have better positioning and more toughness,” junior small forward Alyssa Ustby said. “So, that means on the low post, you’re pushing out your girl that you’re guarding on the rebound and you’re going to go get the ball. That’s something that we’re really focusing on these next couple days.”
Banghart described FSU’s second-chance points as a “two-part problem.”
“I don’t think we did a good job containing and then we couldn’t rotate and rebound very well,” Banghart said. “Put on top of that, shooting 4-23 from (3-point range), is a tough kind of combination of statistics.”
As the Seminoles continued to dominate the offensive glass — rebounding 20 of their 46 missed shots on the game — the frustration built for UNC.
According to junior guard Deja Kelly, this annoyance wasn’t enough for her team to act.
“It wasn’t frustrating enough because we didn’t really change it or become more physical,” Kelly said. “I think it just came down to toughness and physicality in the end, especially in the second half where we just weren’t physical enough and it didn’t matter enough.”
It was only fitting that in the game’s final stretch, FSU pulled away thanks to its second-chance points.
With the score at 70-66 FSU, Seminoles graduate guard Jazmine Massengill drove into the lane and put up a floater. It bounced off of the rim and sophomore forward Makayla Timpson — fighting against three Tar Heels in the paint — ripped down the rebound and recorded the putback to give FSU a decisive 6-point lead with less than a minute remaining.
Despite an abysmal shooting night and being out-hustled on the defensive boards, Banghart noted that UNC was still able to compete with Florida State.
The Seminoles never led by more than eight points and the Tar Heels had multiple chances to tie or take the lead late in the game.
In the last minute, UNC called four 30-second timeouts in an attempt to set up scoring opportunities off of in-bounds plays. Banghart drew up plays to free up redshirt senior Eva Hodgson from behind the arc and create isolation for Kelly at the wing and junior guard Kennedy Todd-Williams at the baseline.
“All things aside, these guys still had a chance to win it,” Banghart said. “I thought they were better than (they were) a week ago, with their execution offensively and their purpose on that end and concentration, and then on the defensive end we’re more connected. (It’s) good progress. We know it’s a long season and it’s important to keep getting better and I thought we got better from a week ago.”
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