OK, so the Heels took a 57-54 L to Wake in their ACC opener Thursday night. It happened. And it was … let’s be polite and say not pretty. I’m going straight to the numbers here because there is both hope and concern to be found therein.
Shooting splits: Carolina 34.8/11.1/66.7. Wake: 35.0/9.5/81.3. Turnovers: Carolina 15, Wake 14. Assists: Carolina 9, Wake 7. Fouls: Carolina 16, Wake 15. The theme here is that both teams played like absolute trash in basically every aspect of the game. The issue in this one was not the number of shots UNC missed, or how many times they coughed up the ball. It wasn’t even the fouls. All of those were pretty much equal for both teams. It was the KIND of fouls the Tar Heels committed.
UNC went 6-9 from the stripe on Thursday. Wake shot 13-16. Carolina fouled the Deacs much more often either when a player was in the act of shooting or after they were already in the bonus. In such a tight game, those kinds of mistakes have consequences. If those FT attempts are reversed, the Heels leave Winston Salem with a victory.
Let’s pivot to the positive side here. Jen Hoover is a very good coach and this Wake team started their season by doing the following: Hanging tight for a half with #14 Arkansas, beating Davidson, beating #24 Missouri State, and beating Charlotte. None of those games were at home. They have two legit All-Caps BALLERS in Gina Conti and Ivana Raca, both of whom have given Carolina plenty of trouble over the past few years, and they did so again in this game. In other words, this wasn’t a game we should be particularly upset about losing. (Note: this did not prevent me from screaming at the TV plenty on Thursday night.)
A few individual highlights right quick: Freshman Anya Poole made her second start of the year and put up 12 points, 11 boards, a dime, a steal, and two blocks. I want to specifically shout out Poole for some tenacious work on the offensive glass which she converted into put-backs more often than not. Janelle put up 11-8; admittedly below her usual standard, but still one of the better nights anyone in Carolina Blue had. Petra, despite a horrific no-show on three-point attempts, logged 12-3-3 and a steal thanks to some crafty dribble-drive work and nice finishing around the rim.
More positives: UNC should not turn in a shooting performance that poor again this season. I mean, Petra goes 2-6 behind the arc instead of the bagel she put up, they leave Lawrence Joel with a W. Every player on the roster has a ceiling somewhere between over and WAY over what we saw against Wake. Even the best players have bad games now and then, but the odds of Carolina self-combusting en masse like that again aren’t high. And I’ll keep hammering the point: this team is very, very young and even more unfamiliar with each other. Barring something catastrophic (which unfortunately is drastically more likely this year because *gestures wildly at everything*), they’re going to be so much better at the end of the season than they are right now.
As you probably know, tomorrow’s scheduled road tilt with #2 Louisville has been postponed while the Cards go through quarantine and contact-tracing protocols following some positive COVID tests in the program. We wish everyone within the Louisville Women’s Basketball family a swift and full recovery, and hope they remain safe going forward. Sending love and good thoughts from the Thrill to the ‘Ville, y’all.
PLEASE EVERYONE: BE SAFE AND WEAR A F******** MASK!!!!!!!!
Anyway, in far less important news, Carolina’s next game is back home in Carmichael on December 17th against Syracuse. If you’re reading this, I assume you’ll be watching anyway, but make a point to tune in for ‘Cuse PG Tiana Mangakahia. She missed last year while she was battling and then beating breast cancer, and is now back balling out as one of the best pure point guards in the country. We’ll see if UNC can handle her and the rest of the Orange as they look to bounce back. Until next time, be well, stay safe, and as always: GO HEELS!!!