The Tar Heels are soldiering on without one of their most impactful players, Xylina McDaniel, who has likely been lost for the rest of the season due to a serious lower right leg injury sustained in the Dec. 21st game against Elon.
Sophomore guard Jessica Washington says McDaniel’s absence will hurt, but it’s not something her team can’t overcome.
“Other players have to step up more now that Z’s out, but just playing as a team and moving the ball around will get us open shots. That’s what I’m focusing on,” Washington says.
The 2013 ACC Freshman of the Year was also a preseason All-ACC selection this season, but Carolina will now need team leaders like Allisha Gray and Stephanie Mavunga to shoulder more of the load going forward.
Friday’s opponent, the Buccaneers, will be hoping to use their sharpshooter, Tianna Tarter, to spring an upset. Tarter is averaging 12.8 points per game and knocks 44 percent of her three-point attempts.
Meanwhile, for the Tar Heels, they’ll hope to replicate Tuesday’s balanced scoring that saw Washington, Gray and Mavunga all tally in double figures.
UNC head coach Sylvia Hatchell, though, says the Tar Heels need to be sure to pace themselves and get healthy.
“Our kids are a little banged up now. We have several kids in the locker room that have aches and pains. We will rest and get ready to play Friday, and our first conference game is on Sunday. We need to heal up a little bit before we go into conference play. These guys continue to play well,” Coach Hatchell says.
Friday’s contest serves as UNC’s final tune-up before ACC action begins Sunday against rival N.C. State.