By R.L. Bynum
RALEIGH — A lot of the elements that came together for North Carolina to upset No. 4 N.C. State 15 days earlier were missing Sunday.
And missing is what the Tar Heels mostly did from 3-point range in the first three quarters after collecting 11 3-pointers in the first meeting. Without that element, they got out of their offensive rhythm and the Wolfpack took control early to get revenge with an 82–63 victory Sunday at Reynolds Coliseum to snap UNC’s three-game win streak.
“Obviously a disappointing performance, which led to a disappointing result,” UNC coach Courtney Banghart said. “We just didn’t come ready to play. If you look at our first half in terms of how many times they won the paint versus how many times we won the paint, it equated to shots that are out of rhythm for us, which we don’t make. And so, it was a tale of two halves for us. We just got down in too big of a hole. It’s too good of a team.”
UNC (11–9, 6–9 ACC) missed its first 16 3-point attempts. By the time the Tar Heels started finding the perimeter range midway through the second half, it was too late. They made 4 of 7 in the fourth quarter from 3-point range to finish 5 of 24.
“We did play pick on the ball different this time and I think the first half, especially, it was effective,” N.C. State coach Wes Moore said, explaining UNC’s poorer perimeter performance. “They got to the point, though, where they were putting their heads down and just going to the hole and we trouble keeping them in front of us.”
For the third consecutive season, UNC lost the second game against N.C. State after upsetting the Wolfpack (15–2, 10–2) in the first game. The margin of defeat equaled the 2018 second game as the largest margin of the three. It was the largest margin of defeat this season, topping the 88–76 loss Jan. 19 at Syracuse.
The Wolfpack clearly had the rematch circled on its calendar and played like it.
“I didn’t feel like we didn’t have our best game over there in Chapel Hill,” N.C. State’s Kayla Jones said. “And once we watched film, we saw what we could correct. It made a difference.”
Jakia Brown-Turner led the way for State with a career-high 25 points, with Jones scoring 20 and Elissa Cunane collected 17 points and 14 rebounds.
“Jakia was a problem, clearly,” Banghart said. “She didn’t play very well the first time and we knew that was to our favor. So, they really diced us up in the one-on-one. We didn’t guard as well either.”
State outrebounded UNC 46–39.
The UNC trio of Deja Kelly, Petra Holešínská and Janelle Bailey combined for 10 first-half points. They provided offensive energy in the second half, just not enough for a rally. Kelly ended up with 14, Holešínská 13 and Bailey 12. Stephanie Watts collected seven points, seven rebounds and a team-high five assists.
“Honestly, we just weren’t together as a group as a whole,” said Bailey, who said UNC didn’t have a counter to what State was doing Sunday. “I felt like we didn’t have an answer, didn’t play together.”
Freshman Alyssa Ustby scored a season-high 20 points with four 3-pointers in the first meeting. Although she scored 10 points, Ustby missed all three 3-point attempts Sunday.
“It was pretty frustrating just not seeing the ball go in the hoop for anybody,” Kelly said. “So that was kind of not disappointing but frustrating just because we know how many shots we hit last game and we knew that’s obviously what we needed to do to defeat this team.”
Kelly’s transition 3-pointer and a Watts free throw cut N.C. State’s lead to 70–58 with 4:28 left, but UNC could come no closer.
“I think we started to go on a little run of getting a few stops in a row,” Kelly said. “So, being able to push in transition, getting buckets, which is what we are pretty good at. I think that got us definitely going again but then they came back and scored right back. So, it was kind of hard for us to just keep that rhythm to where we could cut the lead down.”
UNC shot 45.7% in the second half after only making 24.2% in the first half.
“We’re a better team, let’s just say we didn’t shoot well,” Banghart said. “I don’t think I love a lot of the shots we took in that first half. So, some of them were open and we need to make those. But if you think about how we generate looks, there’s a rhythmic way to play basketball and we were out of rhythm for sure in the first half.”
Three Brown-Turner jumpers fueled a 14–0 Wolfpack run that gave N.C. State a 22–8 lead with 9:05 left in the first half as UNC went scoreless for nearly seven minutes.
A 7-0 UNC run, which Watts capped with a pair of free throws with 4:56 left in the first half, cut its deficit to 26–17. After the Pack pushed the lead back to 14, two Ustby buckets cut the lead to 31–21 by halftime, with State going scoreless for the final 2:54 of the half.
UNC pulled within eight on a Kelly jumper with 6:25 left in the third quarter, but the Pack shoved it back to 17 and took a 60–44 lead into the fourth quarter.
“I think we’ve come a long way and that’s what I told them,” Banghart said. “But I like who we’ve become and who we will be. I just didn’t like it today too much on either end.”
Carolina’s Kennedy Todd-Williams, who played well at point guard in the first game, missed more than 16 minutes after hurting her ankle early in the second quarter and finished with three points.
The Tar Heels return home at 6 p.m. Thursday to face Georgia Tech (13–6, 11–5 after Sunday 49–43 upset loss at Boston College) on senior night. UNC finishes the regular season on Sunday at Virginia Tech (12–7, 7–7 after Sunday’s 76–68 home win over Syracuse.
No. 4 N.C. State 82,
North Carolina 63
Pool photos by Ethan Hyman