Since coming to Chapel Hill, Courtney Banghart’s tenure has featured a lot of positives. Big time recruiting wins, upsets of top five ranked teams, and now this year a first NCAA Tournament bid. Unfortunately, a first NCAA Tournament win at North Carolina will have to wait until next year.
UNC lost to Alabama in the first round in San Antonio, falling 80-71.
After a back and forth opening couple minutes, the Crimson Tide opened up a nine-point lead late in the first quarter. For the rest of the half, the teams would trade runs. Then late in the second quarter, UNC got the deficit back down to two with just over three minutes left. However, Alabama answered back by scoring 10 of the next 12 points. Unfortunately, two points was a close as it would get.
The second half played out fairly similarly. UNC gets within six, Alabama takes it back out to 12. The Heels get it to five, the Tide respond and go back up 14. With a minute left, Stephanie Watts hit a three to get within seven, but it was too little too late. Alabama iced it with free throws at the other end, and Carolina ran out of time to make anymore rally attempts.
On the offensive end, it was a bit of a struggle to score for anyone not named Stephanie Watts. The grad transfer guard scored 29 points, going 10-16 from the floor and 7-11 from three. As a team, the Heels shot better from three than they did from two. Beyond the arc, they were 10-24 (41.7%), while from two they were just 16-46 (34.7%). The Heels struggled with Alabama’s size inside. While Janelle Bailey scored 16 points, it took 19 shots for he to do it, as her and pretty much everyone else really struggled in the paint.
Meanwhile on the defensive end, Carolina did a decent job handling that size at the other end. Alabama’s starting frontcourt of Jasmine Walker and Ariyah Copeland averaged 19.2 and 15.0 points respectively during the regular season. Today, they put just 13 and 11, combining to shoot 10-24.
Unfortunately, Alabama has a big three, and the third of that trio went off. Jordan Lewis went off for the Tide scoring 32 points on 11-21 shooting, knocking down four three-pointers.
UNC also had a losing day on the boards, contributing to them being unable to sustain any runs during the comeback attempts. Alabama outrebounded the Heels 46-33, including grabbing 30 defensive to just 14 offensive for Carolina.
While the Heels will use several key players from this year’s team, they’re still fairly young. Six of the nine players that took the floor were sophomores or younger, and four top 20 recruits according to ESPN are coming in next year. The program is on the rise. They’ll be back.