Deacs Recap: The First Loss Is The Deepest.

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!!!

Post Game: UNCG

The Tar Heels welcomed the UNC Greensboro Spartans to Carmichael this afternoon and did exactly what they did in their season opener against Radford: put on a wire-to-wire show of absolute dominance. For the second straight year, Courtney Banghart’s team started off 2-0, after cruising over their in-state opponents to a 96-35 victory. Once again, everyone contributed on both ends. It was the kind of gorgeous, up-tempo, team-oriented basketball Banghart’s Princeton teams used to dominate the Ivy League, and now she has a roster with enough health, depth, and talent to let it really get cookin’ in Chapel Hill.

Let’s get into how the largest winning margin of the Coach Bang era came to be.

Remember the even distribution of scoring and passing that made everything flow so effortlessly in the Radford game? Turns out adding Stephanie Watts and Kennady Tucker (both of whom were held out of the opener due to injury concerns) into that mix just makes it better. Watts was a little shaky with her shooting touch, but everything else we saw in her first stint with the Heels was right there. Her speed, her handles, the passing acumen, the rebounding skills; they were all on full display. Steph finished with only four points on 2-8 shooting, but she logged three rebounds, four assists, and four steals. Honestly, just seeing her on the floor again was beautiful. Kennady didn’t score, but co-led the team in dimes (5) along with Deja Kelly, and it’s clear she’s matured as a floor general. She largely ran the offense when Deja was off the court and she was manipulating the defense and passing teammates open with confidence.

The rest of the offense was, somehow, even more prolific than in game one. Led by freshman Anya Poole’s 15 points, five Heels finished in double figures. (Janelle, Petra, Deja, and Ariel Young being the other four.) Petra’s 14 came primarily from deep (4-5 from three), and Deja was working every level with ease. Two specific highlights in a game full of ’em: as anyone who’s followed this team the past three seasons knows, Janelle began as a traditional big who has diligently expanded her game to include dribble-drives, long-range shooting, and an ever-expanding arsenal of crafty post moves. Today, she scored two of her 10 points on a turn-around, one-legged fall-away jumper which was just the latest example of us saying “wait she can do THAT now TOO????” It was, in a word, dope. The other: Deja is gonna be special, y’all, and while her 13 points draw the eye in the box score, there was an absolutely filthy break where she streaked up the left side of the floor and threw a one-handed cross-court laser to Steph who finished on a reverse layup. Kid’s got all the tools. One more thing: THESE. ARE. CAROLINA’S. SHOOTING. SPLITS. FROM. THIS. GAME. 56.3/45.0/83.3. And that’s *after* they cooled off in the second half.

Speaking of shooting splits, let’s talk about the defense. The Heels held UNCG to 18.2/14.8/73.3 on the day. To be clear: if you’re going to be a top-flight team in the ACC, you absolutely should be smothering a Southern Conference opponent like that, and the Spartans were missing some key offensive players, including last season’s leading scorer. Nonetheless, the defense was flying around, closing out on shooters, denying entry passes, busting plays, and in general doing nearly everything right. Tack on a 45-24 rebounding advantage and a 17-10 turnover differential in favor of the home team, and it explains why the final score was what it was, as well as the opponent only having 11 points and being down by 40 at the half. (One does imagine that those 10 Carolina turnovers were none to pleasing to Coach Bang and that’ll be a point of emphasis going forward.)

Overall, it was about as complete a performance as you could ask for. There was even more lineup experimentation, both to incorporate Watts and Tucker, and just trying new combinations in general. Once again, the depth and tinkering meant no one used up too much gas, with Deja leading the team with just 24 minutes played. That’s a particularly good thing, since the Heels have to turn around and host High Point at 1:00PM EST tomorrow. Having spread the playing time around reduces the possibility of being caught out on short rest, which is no small thing as we move into a compressed season that is bound to see plenty of scheduling changes and just general weirdness due to COVID. See y’all right back here tomorrow to recap the High Point game, and as always, GO HEELS!

Welcome, Y’all.

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Dearly beloved, friends, neighbors, Tar Heels the world over: this is a website dedicated to the love, coverage, and celebration of all things UNC Women’s Basketball. This being our inaugural post, some introductions are in order.

My name is Travis. Most of the writing you read here will be mine. Basketball has been my favorite sport since I was old enough to know what sports were, and I’ve been in love with women’s hoops ever since I was fortunate enough to watch the 1996 Olympic Team live and in person when I was a teenager in Atlanta. I’ve written a general sports blog since 2011, and last season I covered the ACC for Women’s Hoops World. I’m a diehard Atlanta Dream fan, but I never had a D1 college rooting interest until I moved to Chapel Hill.

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I moved here for my then-girlfriend, now-wife, Aggie. Aggie is pure genius with a camera and all of the photos you’ll see here will be her work. She grew up in a family of rabid Tar Heel fans (and is a third generation Heel herself), and carries an encyclopedic memory of all things Carolina athletics going back nearly four decades. She’s been shooting bands and sports for a long time, and her eye trains on angles and details that don’t so much capture the moment as put you on the stage or the field or the court. She can also eviscerate a ref from the stands more precisely and hilariously than any other human on earth.

Fun fact: the women’s basketball program at Carleton College, where Ags and I met (go Knights!), was literally founded by someone who played in the first game of basketball. Ever.

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How this came to be: we’ve had season tickets since the 2014-15 season. In that time, we have lived and died with this team more completely than any of our other sports rooting interests. We talk about the players like they’re our friends. We’ve cried, we’ve screamed our throats raw, we’ve clocked what felt like whole lifetimes through roller-coaster games in Carmichael. And we wanted to share that passion and heartache and joy with anyone out there who cares to come along with us. In short, this site will be powered by love.

(Note: We meant to have this operation up and humming before the season tipped off, but my grandfather, the last living grandparent either of us had left, passed away shortly before that and things just … spiraled. But we’re here now.)

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What we hope this will be: this is all something of an experiment. We’re going to try and replicate some of our favorite sports internet work here, and the things we gravitate to tend towards the eccentric. If you’re reading this, we assume you already read goheels.com for your previews and gamers and the like. There will be some of that here as well, along with analytics-based pieces (I am a huge nerd) and big-picture stuff about where the Heels are in the ACC and/or the national landscape. If we can wrangle it further down the line, hopefully some features on players, coaches, etc, as well. What we’re really after, though, is something in between Swish Appeal (if you like women’s basketball and don’t read them, you should fix that right now) and what Banner Society is for college football. A way to love this team and process the game that is broad, slightly silly, esoteric, and hopefully insightful and meaningful. We want to bring you good work, but also fun and irreverence. We want this project to amble off in unexpected directions from time to time. We’re going to take some big swings. We’ll probably screw a few of them up, but we beg your forgiveness in advance and hope you’ll stick around.

Welcome to Rally ‘Round The Well, y’all, cheer our Tar Heel teams like hell. Let’s have some fun.