UNC loses first game in ACC Tournament in OT

The University of North Carolina women’s basketball team usually performs well in the ACC Tournament. This year they encountered disappointment, losing their first game in Greensboro Coliseum with an 82-72 overtime loss to Pittsburgh.

With 15.9 seconds left coach Sylvia Hatchell called a timeout, down 64-67. Netting her most important basket of the season, sophomore Jamie Cherry tied the game, forcing overtime with a clutch three-pointer.

The Tar Heels began their first overtime period of the year with a 7-0 Pittsburgh run over two minutes. UNC finally broke through off two free-throws from freshman Destinee Walker, but would only score once more in the final five minutes with a three-pointer from ACC Freshman of the Year, Stephanie Watts.

Watts led the team with 20 points, while Cherry added 18 points. In addition, Walker scored 12 points and redshirt junior Hillary Summers contributed 14 points and 8 rebounds.

Worth noting, Watts hit her 75th three-pointer of the season, most ever for a UNC freshman player.

The Panthers were led by Brenna Wise’s 25 points, followed by Aysia Bugg’s 20.

The Tar Heels and Panthers met once before during the regular season, in which Pitt picked up a 76-60 win.

The game started out well for North Carolina, ending the first period trailing by one, 19-18. The Tar Heels were 8-for-9 with field-goals early on, keeping them in pace with the Panthers, who completed the regular season with an overall 13-17 record. North Carolina was 14-17 overall.

Cherry, Summers and Watts, carried the team in first half points, but with a struggling N’Dea Bryant, Walker and Erika Johnson, UNC entered halftime down 41-33, as Pitt scored 22 second period points, compared to UNC’s 15.

A slow third period saw Pitt score only 6 points, while North Carolina added 14. A 7-0 run for the Tar Heels late in the third quarter with 1:44 left brought them within two, trailing 47-45. The period would end tied up, 47-47.

Walker found her touch, going 4-for-4 with field-goals late in the third and early in the fourth period, keeping UNC tied at 51-51 early on.

UNC re-gained a lead with six minutes remaining, leading 56-53 off a Summers basket. With 15.9 seconds left they trailed 67-64, setting the stage for Cherry’s OT-inducing three-pointer.

UNC could not match Pitts’ 15 overtime points, scoring only five.

Pittsburgh will take on Miami at eleven o’clock tomorrow in Greensboro Coliseum.


Destinee Walker leads UNC in 72-68 loss

The University of North Carolina Tar Heels picked up their fourth loss in a row on Thursday night in the John Paul Jones Arena at the University of Virginia. The Cavaliers bested the Tar Heels in a close 72-68 game.

A rounded team effort included a team-leading 18 points from freshman Destinee Walker, followed by redshirt junior Hillary Summers’ 16. Sophomore Jamie Cherry added 12 points.

In addition, freshman Stephanie Watts, the current ACC Rookie of the Week for the fourth time this season, completed her seventh double-double of the season with 14 points and 10 rebounds.

Virginia placed four players in double digits as well, with sophomore guard Mikayla Venson leading the team with 23 points.

UNC now stands at 14-16 on the season while 4-11 against Atlantic Coast Conference opponents. Virginia is now 16-13, with a 6-9 record in the ACC.

While the game was only tied for almost four minutes, it was Virginia that lead for a majority of the 40 minutes, leading for 21:53.

North Carolina started out with an early 13-6 lead and ended the first period up 16-12. Making 10-for-26 field goal attempts in the first half, the Tar Heels entered intermission trailing 29-26, hurt by missed free-throws. In the first 20 minutes, UNC went 2-for-8 from the line.

At one point in the third period, the Tar Heels trailed by eight points, however, an 8-0 run brought them back up to speed. Nearly matching UNC’s 19 points in the third period, Virginia scored 18 to just barely keep a lead in the game, entering the final 10 minutes with a 47-45 lead.

Early in the fourth the game was tied at 47-47, but the Cavaliers slightly broke away at one point to lead by eight, at 64-56.

North Carolina battled back with some shots from Walker and Watts, including a timely Watts three-pointer, but the Tar Heels never re-gained a lead. The closest they would come in the fourth period was one point away, trailing 64-63 with 2:42 remaining.

Worth noting, UNC went 16-for-31 from field goal range in the second half, keeping them close to the Cavaliers with the 51 percent completion rate.

Perhaps the most anticipated game of North Carolina’s season, the Tar Heels will play their final game of the regular season against the Duke Blue Devils at three o’clock Sunday in Carmichael Arena.



UNC’s Slow Start Costs Them a Win Against Pitt

It was a tale of two teams on Thursday night. The first North Carolina women’s basketball team to step onto the court in Carmichael Arena at seven o’clock was slow and uninspired. For the first two periods of the game that team would only score 16 points with 8 points a period.

The second North Carolina team, though still the same players, returned from halftime ignited and ready to go under head coach Sylvia Hatchell’s leadership. These players would go on to outscore Pittsburgh in both the third and fourth periods, but it was too late.

The Panthers beat the Tar Heels 76-60, putting UNC back at .500 on the season at 14-14 and 4-9 against ACC opponents. Also a struggling program, Pittsburgh now stands at 12-14 on the season and 4-9 within the ACC.

Throughout the first half of the game UNC completed a bleak 20 percent of their shots, going 5-for-24.

Freshman guard Destinee Walker led the team with a game-high 20 points. Freshman guard Stephanie Watts, current ACC Rookie of the Week, scored 16 points, while redshirt junior forward Hillary Summers produced 13 points.

Despite having insight into the team, Hatchell didn’t have the answers as to why her players simply couldn’t get their shots on net early on.

“I’d like to erase the first half from the history books of basketball,” Hatchell said. “If we had played the first half like we did the second half it would have been a whole different game. I don’t know why we started out so lethargic. We were so flat in the first two quarters. I don’t want to make excuses, but I still don’t know why we played the first two quarters like we were.”

The Panthers secured a 20-8 lead after the first period, closing out the last 5:21 on a 12-0 run.

“We were playing the first half like we weren’t even in the gym,” Hatchell said.

The early portion of the second period only furthered UNC’s drought, in which the Tar Heels finally broke through at 5:09 with an Erika Johnson free-throw. At that point the Panthers had scored 10 more points, marking the score at 30-9, after a 10-minute scoreless timeframe for North Carolina.

Entering halftime down 45-16, Hatchell said her intermission speech seemed to liven up her players, but she expects more accountability and fire to come from within the team.

“We’ve got to have more leadership on the court then where coach Hatchell won’t go crazy in the locker room at halftime and they come out and play with the intensity level that they showed in the second half,” she said. “More of that’s got to come from the players and I’m just going to keep challenging them there to do that.”

North Carolina would outscore Pittsburgh 18-11 in the third period and 26-20 in the fourth for an improved 47 percent field-goal percentage, but the deficit from the first half was just too large to overcome.

The largest lead Pittsburgh would hold in the second half was by 30, which UNC managed to dwindle to 15 at its closest point with 0:28 remaining.

“I think we’ve had a few games where we start off a little lethargic in the first half,” Walker said. “I think it had a lot to do with coach’s speech at halftime, getting us fired up. Also, we’ve had good senior leadership from Hil[lary]. The second half shows how good of a team we can be if we just start that way.”

North Carolina’s next game is on Sunday against N.C. State University and will be at 1 o’clock in Carmichael Arena.

“This one’s over and we’ve learned from it,” Hatchell said “We’ve got a big weekend coming up. We’ve got probably the most alumni coming in we’ve ever had. There’s our Kay Yow game on Sunday, playing N.C. State, of course. We’ve got lots of special guests coming in recognition of our ‘Play4Kay’ game. That’ll be a real special day. Hopefully we put on a better performance on Sunday and start the game a lot better than we did tonight.”



Stephanie Watts Named ACC Rookie Of The Week

For the third time this season, UNC guard Stephanie Watts has been named ACC Rookie of the Week.

No other player has been named to the award more times this season.

Watts averaged 18.5 points and 8.5 rebounds for North Carolina in two games last week.

She led her team in scoring in both games with 18 points and eight rebounds in a 71-67 victory over Virginia Tech and had 19 points and nine rebounds in a loss at No. 10 Florida State.

Watts ranks second in the league in scoring  (13.8), rebounding (6.9) and blocked shots (1.2), fifth in assists (2.6) and sixth in steals (1.3) per game among ACC freshmen.

The Tar Heels will suit up again Thursday at 7 p.m. against Pittsburgh.


Florida State Seminoles Take Down the Tar Heels

Freshman guard Stephanie Watts’ team-leading 19 points and nine rebounds weren’t enough to propel the University of North Carolina women’s basketball team to a win on Sunday afternoon in the Tucker Center of Florida State University.

The Tar Heels picked up yet another loss against an ACC opponent with their 94-63 loss to the No. 10 Seminoles.

Also a freshman guard, Destinee Walker added 18 points, while redshirt junior forward Hillary Summers contributed 12 points and nine rebounds. If Summers had one more rebound, she would have completed her eighth double-double of the season.

North Carolina is now 14-13 on the season and 4-8 in the ACC.

Florida State placed six players in double figures, with senior center Adut Bulgak leading the team with 19 points and 14 rebounds.

UNC did not hold a lead at any point in the game after allowing Florida State to score the first 10 points. The Tar Heels counteracted with four back-to-back three-pointers, three of them from Watts, who got the ball rolling for North Carolina as they closed in on Florida State, trailing 15-12.

Despite the decreased deficit, UNC still ended the first period down 25-12, as the four three-pointers were the only points North Carolina scored in the opening 10 minutes.

The only period the Tar Heels would outscore the Seminoles was the second period. Carolina scored 23 points in the second period and allowed 16 points, entering halftime down 41-35 after shortly remaining tied at 33-33 with two minutes remaining.

The Tar Heels shot field-goals at 46 percent in the first half, but the second half featured a dismal 7-31 field-goal showing, converting for only 22 percent of the attempts.

The third period has been a problem for UNC all year and this game was no exception. By the end of it, the Seminoles had begun to run away with the game with a 68-46 lead.

Walker began the fourth period with UNC’s eighth three-pointer of the game, one of nine in the game, one of the only bright spots of the game for North Carolina. The Seminoles’ lead would grow to over 30 points in the fourth period.

The Tar Heels next play on Thursday night at 7 o’clock in the Carmichael Arena for a game against the Pittsburgh Panthers.





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.


A Starting Point: UNC Women Picked Fourth in Hardwood Preseason

Photo courtesy of UNC Athletic Communications

GREENSBORO– The UNC women’s basketball team was picked to finish fourth in the 2013-2014 ACC preseason polls by both the league’s Blue Ribbon Panel and the head coaches.

Duke was picked to top the ACC pecking order, receiving a majority of the first place votes. Carolina also trailed Notre Dame and Maryland in the preseason selections.

But things are looking up for the Tar Heels as they welcome the top freshman recruiting class in the nation to Chapel Hill.

Sophomore forward Xylina McDaniel, last year’s ACC Freshman of the Year, and freshman guard Diamond DeShields were named to the Preseason All-ACC Team.

DeShields was the only freshman who landed on the All-ACC Team.

Carolina women’s basketball tips off its season Nov. 8 against Air Force here in Carmichael Arena.