Watts, Walker Honored by ACC Ahead of Tournament Tipoff Wednesday

Members of the North Carolina women’s basketball team have been honored by the Atlantic Coast Conference ahead of the conference tournament beginning on Wednesday.

UNC guard Stephanie Watts was selected as the ACC Freshman of the Year, the league announced on Wednesday.

Watts won ACC Rookie of the Week honors four times over the course of the season, more than any other first-year players, and finished at No. 10 in the conference scoring list, averaging 14.5 points per game. The Wesley Chapel native also checks in among the conference’s leaders with 1.3 blocks per game. Watts led the Tar Heels in scoring 11 times, including posting a career-high 30 points versus NC State on February 21.

Watts was also named to the All-ACC second team, on Tuesday. Watts and teammate Destinee Walker both earned selections to the conference’s All-Freshman team.

Walker, from Orlando, Florida, scored in double figures 27 times during the season – the most among ACC freshman – and averaged 14 points per game.

Walker, Watts and the rest of the Tar Heels will be in action on Wednesday in the ACC Tournament matching up against Pittsburgh.

Tipoff is scheduled for one o’clock. The game can be heard live on 97.9 FM/1360 AM WCHL.


LaQuanda Barksdale named ACC Legend

LaQuanda Barksdale Quick, UNC women’s basketball’s 11th all-time leading scorer, will represent North Carolina in the 12th annual class of ACC Legends.

Barksdale was a 2001 All-American selection and a two-time All-ACC selection.

She did it all for the Tar Heels, finishing seventh all-time in three-point percentage and eight in total rebounds in UNC history.

The number 33 has been retired by UNC and hangs in the rafters at Carmichael Arena.

She was selected 12th overall in the 2001 WNBA Draft by the Portland Fire. She played three seasons in the WNBA before finishing her career overseas.

Barksdale is currently an assistant coach at Winston-Salem State.



Art’s Angle: Hatchell Should Go Gracefully

Hiring Sylvia Crawley as an assistant coach is the right play for Sylvia Hatchell. Getting her friends and colleagues in the university to lobby for an extension to her contract is the wrong play.

Crawley, a star player and captain of the 1994 Tar Heels, will be seen by many people as Hatchell’s successor after she resigns following the 2016 season or is fired. Hatchell cannot survive as the Carolina coach for reasons that go beyond her program’s complicity in the NCAA allegations.

That first. Her support group calling women’s basketball a “sacrificial lamb” is ill-advised, some would say stupid. Anyone who reads the Notice of Allegations can see where Hatchell’s program is cited through the actions of former academic advisor Jan Boxill, the long-respected faculty member who was fired for her role in the AFAM scandal. Beyond the substantial fine the university will receive for a “lack of institutional control,” women’s basketball is the sport most likely to be penalized. One of the five allegations is entirely devoted to emails between Boxill and the AFAM department.  If so, Hatchell will be held accountable as the CEO of the program.

Just as Butch Davis was fired for, among other things, violating his contract by hiring a coach (John Blake) who broke NCAA rules. UNC firing Davis “without cause” and paying him the balance of his contract worth between $11 and 12 million seemed foolish, but the university did not want to invest the time and legal fees to defend a prolonged lawsuit that Davis surely would have filed. Any Carolina coach whose program breaks NCAA rules, including Roy Williams, should be and would be fired.

Second, the collateral damage from the NCAA probe that has injured almost every Tar Heel sports team in recruiting has just about killed women’s hoops. Hatchell has lost the No. 1 recruiting class of 2013 — from Diamond DeShields transferring to Tennessee after her All-ACC freshman season to Jessica Washington, Allisha Gray and Stephanie Mavunga leaving this summer. Only Gray acknowledged that the stigma of the NCAA investigation caused her departure, but surely Washington and Mavunga feel the same way. These women worry that their association with a tainted team will hurt their professional careers, in and out of basketball, moving forward.

Clearly, Hatchell’s program has become fatally flawed and a change must be made to start over. Hatchell is a Hall of Fame coach who has won a national championship (1994) and more than 900 games. She also won her courageous battle against Leukemia that kept her off the bench during the 2014 season. She has been a great representative of the university until the NCAA revelations that have divided the campus and caused fractures in the athletic department itself.

Athletic Director Bubba Cunningham must negotiate an athletic program, 98 percent of which still operates and succeeds at the highest level, through the awful hand he was dealt when he took over for Dick Baddour in November of 2011. Aware he was inheriting the three-year probation in football for impermissible benefits during the Davis era, Cunningham said recently that he had not heard the acronym “AFAM” until a few months into his job.

The Rams Club continues to raise money at record levels, proving an angry alumni and fan base has not deserted the program, but by charter can only pay for scholarships and capital improvements. Cunningham is stuck with about an $80 million operating budget with most of its revenue streams maxed out. Sure, UNC gets an occasional windfall from additional post-season payouts from the ACC, but not enough to increase salaries and recruiting budgets for all but two of UNC’s 28 sports that do not make money.

When revenues are flat, expenses need to be cut. Cunningham and UNC are committed, for now, to a broad-based program driven by participation for as many varsity athletes as possible. But that will have to change one day. Current Title IX guidelines dictate any sport cut will be on the men’s side, and Cunningham has an opportunity to start by dropping the struggling wrestling program after he recently fired veteran coach and former Tar Heel All-American C.D. Mock. Wrestling gives out all 9.9 scholarships allowed by the NCAA, so that could save some money for the Rams Club. Also, coaches’ salaries and recruiting and travel costs would be eliminated from Bubba’s budget. Wrestling could still be offered as a club sport, where UNC’s program is among the biggest and most successful in the country.

Women’s basketball loses more money than any sport at Carolina. Hatchell earns about a million dollars from her state salary, stipends and her successful summer camp. The team draws sparse crowds to revamped Carmichael Arena, employs eight assistant coaches or support personnel and has significant recruiting and travel budgets. UNC has a “cost per athlete” metric computed by revenues versus  expenses divided by the number of players on a team. While losing about $2.5 million a year, Hatchell’s program has the highest cost-per-athlete of all women sports and one of the highest of all 28 teams.

Surely, UNC can play competitive women’s basketball for half the cost. The money saved could be spread across all other women’s sports, increasing subpar coaching salaries and recruiting budgets in most of them. It is truly amazing that Carolina athletics continues to finish high in the Learfield Director’s Cup (fifth in 2014-15) with an operating budget far behind schools like Stanford, Ohio State and Texas.

Changes are on the way. They need to include women’s basketball where, after one season as Hatchell’s well-traveled and accomplished assistant, Crawley becomes the new face of the program. She has already held three head-coaching positions and is respected in the profession. Her charge would be to rebuild the Lady Tar Heels for less than what it has cost UNC, monetarily and otherwise, under Hatchell.


Chansky’s Notebook: Hatchell’s Play Wrong

This is today’s Art Chansky’s Sports Notebook as heard on 97.9 WCHL. You can listen to previous Sports Notebooks here.

Sylvia Hatchell is making a bad situation worse.

Women’s Hall of Fame basketball coach Sylvia Hatchell is garnering public support for a contract extension,  similar to those awarded to Roy Williams, women’s lacrosse coach Jenny Levy and women’s tennis coach Brian Kalbass.

There are several reasons why this is a bad move by Hatchell, who should be working behind the scenes to keep her job instead of comparing her plight to three coaches who deserved their contracts to be extended when she did not.

Hatchell’s program is in the most serious trouble from the NCAA’s Notice of Allegations in May. She may not have known anything about the lines that former academic advisor Jan Boxill crossed, but as the CEO Hatchell is ultimately responsible. Just as Butch Davis was and just as Roy Williams would be if his program were hit hard by the NCAA.

Her supporters are calling Hatchell and women’s hoops sacrificial lambs in the NCAA investigation that will lead to some sanctions for the university for lack of institutional control in the AFAM scandal. But, based on the allegations, Hatchell’s program is very likely to receive its own penalties. Until that is determined, a contract extension is last thing she should get. An exit strategy should be her play.

Hatchell doesn’t have a strong enough case to be marshaling her forces against a new chancellor and new athletic director who did not hire her and, very likely, will fire her if women’s basketball draws probation and/or penalties. She’s had a great career, won a national championship, more than 900 games and, most importantly, her fight against Leukemia. If she goes out, it should be with grace.

In some ways, she IS a victim of an NCAA witch hunt that UNC is fighting with millions of dollars in legal fees. Williams got an extension because he is underpaid compared to his peers and he needs a public vote of confidence to help his recruiting that has taken a beating the last two years. And the biggest difference:  Williams’ program was not cited in the NOA.  Hatchell’s was.

That’s why a planned response would be better than firing off guns against a target that cannot, and should not, help her until the verdict and sentences are in.


UNC Women’s Basketball To Host Opening Rounds of NCAA

Selection Sunday provides a lot of attention on men’s college basketball, and had Carolina fans holding their breath to see how the Tar Heels would be seeded. But of course, it’s not only the UNC men’s team that will be trying to make a run in the NCAA tournament. Hall of Fame coach Sylvia Hatchell’s team received an at-large bid and was placed as a No. 4 seed in the Greensboro region after the tournament bracket was announced Monday afternoon.

Carolina will continue its postseason with a match against 13th-seeded Liberty on Saturday at 11 a.m. in Chapel Hill. That’s right. The Tar Heels will play the first two games of the tournament at home in historic Carmichael Arena.

A home-game hosting position is huge for Coach Hatchell’s team, who finished at 24-8 and spent its entire regular season ranked among the top-20 nationally. And she says this is the perfect scenario for the Heels to gain momentum and advance through the Big Dance.

“It was our goal to be one of the top-16 teams, to host the first two rounds, then to go to Greensboro. We can stay at home and we love Greensboro. We’ve played there a lot – then on to Tampa.”

Tampa, Florida is the host of this year’s Final Four, the last three games before an NCAA women’s basketball champion is announced. But before UNC reaches that mark, Carolina may have some challenges even in front of familiar crowds.

“There’s some added pressure with playing at home, too. People expect you to win,” Coach Hatchell said. “But the biggest thing is we’re here for our fans and now we need our fans to fill the place up. What else are you going to do at 11 o’ clock on Saturday morning? You’re too old to watch cartoons – well, I think. What else are you going to do? Come out and cheer us on to victory. “

Within Coach Hatchell’s 950-plus winning career, she and UNC are no strangers to big NCAA tournament games. Her team has made three appearances in the Final Four and won the 1994 national title. Also, Carolina has advanced to at least the regional semifinal game in 14 of its last 19 NCAA Tournament appearances, most recently last season when the Tar Heels reached the Elite Eight as a No. 4 seed.

Their opponent, Liberty, was crowned the Big South Tournament Champions for the 16th time in 19 years. Their longest stay in the NCAA women’s tournament came in 2005 when the Flames advanced to the Sweet 16.

On Saturday morning, it will be two weeks exactly since UNC has played a game after a heart-breaking overtime loss to Louisville in the ACC Tournament semifinals. Coach Hatchell says she has been keeping her players fresh throughout the break with constant scrimmaging and up-tempo practices.

“We took off four days last week after we came back from the ACC Tournament and they went home and had Wednesday through Saturday off. But we practiced last night and today and it gives them a good break. They come back more fresh and excited after breaking up the season. It’s like that regular season, then the ACC’s are over and now it’s the NCAA Tournament. It’s a six game season and every game is so big and important.”

The winner of the Saturday showdown will advance to face the winner of the first-round game between No. 5 seed Ohio State and No. 12 seed James Madison Monday.

Click here to view the entire NCAA Women’s Tournament bracket.


Heels Tumble Out of Tourney in OT Loss

No. 15 North Carolina was knocked out of the ACC Women’s Tournament Saturday night by No. 10 Louisville in a 77-75 overtime loss. The Tar Heels had made it to the quarterfinals and looked to knock out at least one of the top-seeded teams from reaching the semifinals.

UNC freshman Jamie Cherry threw up a 40-foot nail-biter with less than two seconds left on clock to tie the game at 66 and send the game into overtime.

In Louisville’s first ever ACC Tournament game, the Cardinals quickly trimmed a 10-point lead UNC held over them with fewer than 10 minutes to play.

With 40 points scored in the paint compared to UNC’s 28, U of L knew just where to attack.

“We were letting Carolina do what they wanted to do, and we just talked about getting back to the basics,” Louisville Head Coach Jeff Walz said. “We tried to make sure we played scouting report defense and on the offensive end, we actually finally started to execute. We pushed the ball in transition and got some layups and also ran through some things.”

Louisville senior Sara Hammond led the Cardinals with 20 points as she scored eight times on nine shots at the free throw line – a key statistic for her team at the end of the game.

UNC’s Jessica Washington scored a team high 16 points and netted three 3-pointers. Junior N’Dea Bryant also played big for Carolina as she scored 13 points and snatched three steals.

Allisha Gray was evidently off beat on the court. She only scored seven points and grabbed five rebounds in 30 minutes on the floor.

Her time was cut short when she committed her fifth foul with 2 minutes left in regulation. Coach Sylvia Hatchell said losing her at the end of the game was reminiscent to the February 15th matchup between UNC and Louisville.

“The first time, she played really well, and this is probably the worst I’ve seen Allisha play,” Coach Hatchell said. “I kept thinking she was going to get going but she didn’t and they were targeting her a lot.”

Even amid her slump, Gray still made history that night as the 35th player in program history to obtain 1,000 points. With Gray only in her second year at Carolina, that mark shows very promising for the Heels.

And Carolina’s season is not over yet. The NCAA will determine the bracketology of the big dance in the coming weeks as the Tar Heels take on March Madness.



Tar Heels Take Down GT in First Round of ACC’s

Stephanie Mavunga led the Tar Heels to the quarterfinals of the ACC Tournament Thursday night with a game-high 23 points over Georgia Tech in an 84-64 win in Greensboro. Carolina is a No. 6 seed in the tournament and is lifted to a 24-7 overall record.

Mavunga also finished the night with 16 rebounds and 8 blocks. She said she felt tonight was one of the best night’s to make a statement.

Stephanie Mavunga gets double-teamed often.

Stephanie Mavunga gets double-teamed often.

“I really had to step up big,” Mavunga said. “Especially after having such a bad game last game at Duke, I felt like I had let my team down and needed to step up tonight.”

Just before halftime, UNC thought it would take a break with a 13-point lead, until Tech guard Antonia Peresson shot an impressive half court shot at the buzzer to bring them behind the Heels 37-27.

Carolina went through a short scare at the beginning of the second half when Allisha Gray went down hard on the court with an apparent right ankle injury.

“During the game when Allisha got knocked down, I didn’t like that,” Mavunga said. “And seeing her like that made me furious, it ticked me off and actually motivated me.”

When Gray checked back in after a quick trip to the locker room, UNC found their sync and took over on the court in the final minutes – never letting Georgia Tech get back in within seven points.

Jamie Cherry played well at point in limited minutes.

Jamie Cherry played well at point in limited minutes.

Coming behind Mavunga in scoring was Gray with 14 points and three assists alongside Latifah Coleman with 10 points on 40 percent three-point shooting.

UNC shot 50 percent from the floor and scored 21 points off of the Yellow Jackets’ 18 turnovers.

Georgia Tech was led by Kaela (KAY-luh) Davis and Zaire (Z-eye-AIR) O’Neil with 14 points apiece while Aaliyah Whiteside added 13.

On Friday, UNC will meet Louisville as they make their ACC Tournament debut. The Tar Heels are hoping to redeem themselves from the 75-66 loss at Louisville in February.



WBB to Open ACC Tournament on Thursday at 8 p.m.

North Carolina is headed back to the ACC Women’s Basketball Tournament in the Greensboro Coliseum as a No. 6 seed. Although the seeding by no means favors the Tar Heels to win the title, Carolina holds two All-ACC First Team selections on its roster – sophomores Allisha Gray and Stephanie Mavunga.

Out of the four schools to be placed in the top seeds in the bracket, UNC only beat one of them this season. Gray led Carolina with 22 points to force an upset victory over No. 7 Florida State last month in Carmichael Arena.

“At this point in the year I think every team is a little beat up, and it is that time of year when all the ACC teams are so tough, especially on the road. You can get banged up but so much of it is mental, it’s just a mentality. That’s why I challenge the seniors because it’s their team and they’ve got to lead the way in tough situations like this.”

This is the second straight year UNC has been the 6 seed. The Tar Heels advanced to the semifinals in 2014 before a 66-61 loss to Duke.

In the final game of the regular season on Sunday, UNC faced their rival and envisioned ending the game by spoiling Duke’s senior day. However, they suffered a one-point loss in Cameron Indoor to complete the Blue Devils’ sweep.

It was then that head coach Sylvia Hatchell realized that her team would need to develop more heart to compensate for their disadvantages in height.

“Between now and the time we go to Greensboro we’re going to take boxing lessons,” Coach Hatchell said. “Because we’ve got to get tougher if we’re going to be able to battle inside and hold our own in there.”

Coach Hatchell has repeatedly made it a point to judge her team’s success not only by a higher number of points at the end of the game, but also a higher number of rebounds.

As ACC play deepened, UNC was often beaten on the glass as they depended on their speed for offensive opportunities. While Stephanie Mavunga stands at 6’3”, she is often listed as undersized compared to many frontcourt players on ACC program rosters. Mavunga still manages to lead her team in rebounds with 8.7 per game, which places her at eighth-best in the conference.

“We’re a fast break team so steals are great for us,” junior guard N’Dea Bryant said. “I feel like we finish well and that’s what Carolina basketball is about – getting steals and getting fast break points so it’s normal really, it’s what we’re here to do.”

On Thursday at 8 p.m, the first match for the Tar Heels is a game against the winner of the 11th seed Georgia Tech and 14th seed Clemson match-up.

After suffering their first conference loss to Pitt in early January, Carolina made a run at redemption by defeating Georgia Tech in Carmichael Arena, 96-81.

Also, in mid-January, sophomore guard Jessica Washington scored a career-high 20 points to defeat Clemson 78-56 on the road. Washington netted 4 three-pointers to give Carolina its third conference win.


UNC Ends Season with Loss in Cameron Indoor

North Carolina envisioned ending its season with a Duke senior day spoiler in Cameron Indoor and a chance to reclaim a win they lost in overtime in the last rivalry meeting. Although UNC almost made history by netting 14 threes against the Blue Devils, it was not enough to overcome Duke’s 81-80 win on Sunday afternoon.

UNC finished its regular season with a 23-7 record and heads into the ACC tournament with a 10-6 conference mark. Duke has finished with a 20-9 record and they are 11-5 in the ACC, gaining a four-seed in the tournament.

“Between now and the time we go to Greensboro, we’re going to take some boxing lessons,” UNC head coach Sylvia Hatchell said. “We’re going to get some gloves out and go at it to get a little tougher. We have got to get tougher if we’re going to be able to battle inside.”

Carolina had a solid chance to win the game early, but Duke used its height and strength on the inside to beat UNC in a game of runs.

Out of the halftime break, UNC played the worst eight minutes of basketball it has all season. Duke was able to outscore the Tar Heels 25 to 4 on its return from the locker room. Carolina hit a peak in turnovers, suffered from a four-minute scoring drought and was forced to bench Stephanie Mavunga and Brittany Rountree as they got in very deep foul trouble.

“Coming out in the second half, we just couldn’t get things going,” coach Hatchell said. “I kept thinking we were but they came out (strong) in the second half. Sometimes I’d almost rather be a point or two behind at half time, so that way we can come out with an edge at halftime instead of being ahead. They came out and came at us hard and heavy and physical and won that battle.”

However, North Carolina tied a program record high with 14 treys made – a career-night that was established quite recently in December of 2013. Carolina netted five from both Allisha Gray and Jessica Washington Washington and two apiece from seniors Latifah Coleman and Rountree.

“I would have hoped we had done a better job on the shooters honestly whether it’s #15 (Gray) or #11 (Rountree),” Duke Head Coach Joanne P. McCallie said. “But I think we made up for it in other places and I think that’s where shooting can be overrated.”

The offense was still missing a few key pieces. Stephanie Mavunga struggled after being double-teamed by Duke every minute she was on the floor, which is why she was unable to score a field goal until 4:37 remained in the game. Mavunga still managed to finish the game with 11 points.

In the final minute, UNC made numerous attempts to cover the ground and cut the margin it let extend early in the second half. With Duke committing 3 turnovers and UNC on an 8-0 run, Mavunga had a clean-up layup that set the score at 78-77 with 30.4 seconds left.

Duke’s Azura Stevens was fouled by UNC and made her freethrows, except for one that allowed Gray to push down to the end of the court for a last second shot attempt. It didn’t fall, and when Coleman made a Hail Mary pass to Gray again for a three, it was one-point too late.

“I don’t think they were more physical but I do think, like Coach Hatchell said, height was a problem,” Gray said. “We played physical too because we fought back from being down by double digits with four minutes left and we had a comeback to bring the game back down within two.”

Azura Stevens finished with a game high 21 points and 12 rebounds for the Blue Devils. Rebecca Greenwell added 19 shooting 60 percent from the three and Elizabeth Williams finished with 18 in her final game in Cameron Indoor.

Carolina will enter the ACC Tournament with the No. 6 seed and is set to face wither 11th seed Georgia Tech or 14th Clemson Thursday at 8 p.m. in the Greensboro Coliseum.



Mavunga Saves UNC With Last Second Shot

A buzzer-beater lay-up by sophomore Stephanie Mavunga carried the North Carolina women’s basketball team to a 72-70 win over Virginia on Thursday in their final game of the season in historic Carmichael Arena. With the win, No. 15 North Carolina now has a 23-6 overall record and a 10-5 standing in the ACC. The Cavaliers have dropped to 16-12 this season and have closed ACC play at with a 6-9 record.

After tip-off, UVA got ahead to a tremendous start and scored the first nine points of the game. Just when it looked like they would be dominating the night with their high three-point accuracy, Mavunga and junior guard N’Dea Bryant led an 8-0 run on the comeback charge for the Tar Heels. UVA had a 12-point first half advantage over UNC, but that was quickly snapped as Carolina went on a 15-2 run to close out the half with a 35-33 lead.

UVA was led by Faith Randolph who finished with a game-high 24 points on 4-5 shooting from behind the arc.
Carolina led by as many as 10 points after the midgame break until that lead was crushed by a late scoring showdown from Randolph, who led the Hoos in the fight back to a tie at 70 points with 22 seconds left.

However, for UNC’s offensive power, the second half was all Stephanie.

With only seven seconds to play, Allisha Gray attempted a lay-up from the left side of the bucket for the winning shot. When that missed and fell on the other side of the backboard, Mavunga was there for the put back and score. She sealed the win with 0.2 seconds on the clock.

“It’s one of the greatest feelings ever,” Mavunga said. “One thing I don’t like, I don’t like going into overtime. I like winning in regulation. That was the thing. We were all saying in the huddle that we’re going to win this thing in regulation and we’re not going into overtime.”

Mavunga finished with 23 points while shooting 10-15 from the field and eight rebounds. Gray snapped her 23-game streak scoring in double figures and had a tough shooting night as she only contributed nine points. Bryant and senior Brittany Rountree were there to pick up the slack offensively as the Bryant closed out with 13 points while the senior added 10 and six rebounds.

In typical Carolina fashion, the Tar Heels said one of their first farewells to playing seniors Rountree, Latifah Coleman and Danielle Butts with a high intensity fight to the finish.

Up ahead, a road rivalry rematch against Duke on Sunday at 3 p.m. Both teams are vying to finish the regular season with the fifth spot in ACC standings.