Milestone victory will have to wait
Win No. 900 for North Carolina women’s basketball coach Sylvia Hatchell will have to wait until the Tar Heels’ trip to Boston College on Thursday or perhaps Georgia Tech this coming Sunday.
Or if they play the way they did in the first half of their 84-63 loss to No. 5 Duke on Sunday at Carmichael Arena, it could take a while longer.
The Tar Heels tied the score at 2-2 on a basket by Waltiea Rolle less than a minute into the game, then saw Duke hit five 3-pointers while running out to a 36-7 lead at the 6:34 mark.
For Duke, there was little to be said during timeouts or halftime.
The tale was much different for the Tar Heels.
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A three-point play by Rolle with 4:47 left in the half finally got UNC into double digits, but the damage had been done.
“I don’t know what it was,” Hatchell said. “We started out like we were intimidated; I hate to say that. ... We like to compete, but at the start of the game, we did not compete.”
The Blue Devils took advantage almost every time the Tar Heels struggled with switches on defense, getting open 3-point shots and made 7 of 9 in the first half.
“A lot of teams don’t knock down those shots,” Hatchell said. “We don’t have the 3-point shooting that they have. They made 11 (shots outside the arc), 33 points. They’ve got some really, really good shooters — but we’ve got some coming in.”
Hatchell was referring to the recruits who were among the 5,613 in attendence, but she also may have been making a slight commentary about her current players.
UNC’s 21-8 run in the first seven minutes of the second half was about as close as the Tar Heels could get in a game that contrasted the two styles of play.
Their 45.2 percent shooting in the second half only raised the average to 33.3 percent for the game.
Duke, meanwhile, cooled down after shooting 55.9 percent in the first half and finished at 46.2 overall.
“Obviously, a terrific first half for us,” Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie said. “Second half, pretty good, not great. But at the same time, a great effort by Duke today, a really great effort.”
It wasn’t the 40-point beatdown the Blue Devils put on UNC a year ago at Cameron Indoor Stadium, but the emotional letdown for the Tar Heels was clear.
“Coach came in at halftime to give us a motivational speech to wake us up, and we got back to our game in the second half,” Rolle said. “But we should have come out like that.”
The Tar Heels’ other two losses have been by 45 point to Tennessee and by 26 to Maryland — both top-10 teams. Which brings up the “intimidation” factor that Hatchell mentioned.
“(In) close games, we win; we’re mentally tough,” Hatchell said. “The three that we’ve lost, we’ve had some bad runs.
“Sometimes, you’ve got to forget the name on the front of the jersey. ... You can beat ‘em, but you can’t go out there (and play poorly).”
The Tar Heels will be favored both at Boston College and Georgia Tech, but Sunday’s setback is going to be difficult to forget.
“We just have to learn from it and move on,” Hatchell said. “They’re a great team.”
And you can bet the Tar Heels will circle March 3 on the calendar, when they travel to Cameron Indoor Stadium for the rematch.
You may contact Jimmy DuPree at firstname.lastname@example.org or 919-419-6674.