UNC tops nation’s last unbeaten, beats No. 7 NC State 64-51
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — A week after upending a No. 1-ranked team, North Carolina’s surging women have another big upset: this one against the nation’s last unbeaten team in seventh-ranked rival North Carolina State.
Stephanie Watts scored 20 points to help the Tar Heels beat the Wolfpack 64-51 on Sunday, ending N.C. State’s 21-game winning streak to start the season.
N.C. State (21-1, 8-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) came in leading the league standings and as the only unbeaten team in Division I on the men’s or women’s side. But that program-record start ended as the Tar Heels (14-9, 5-4) took over after halftime while the Wolfpack struggled to knock down shots.
“I don’t feel like there was pressure,” said N.C. State’s Erika Cassell, who had 12 rebounds. “Of course everyone was wondering how long the streak is going to go on. It’s just something for us to bounce back from.”
As for the Tar Heels, it was exactly a week ago that hey earned their first win against a No. 1-ranked team in nearly 13 years when they beat Notre Dame at home. Then, after edging Georgia Tech on Thursday, the Tar Heels went on the road against a longtime rival in front of a sellout crowd and earned another huge win.
That’s four in a row overall for a team that has gone from one game above .500 to surging with confidence in a short time.
“It’s been exciting for us,” Watts said. “The team, like (coach Sylvia Hatchell) said, is playing great basketball. ... We’ve just been really excited but we’re never satisfied. We want more. We want to keep it rolling.’”
Janelle Bailey added 16 points and 13 rebounds for the Tar Heels, who shot 39 percent and made a season-low four 3-pointers. But they scored 18 points off 14 turnovers by the Wolfpack.
Kiara Leslie had 17 points and 12 rebounds to lead the Wolfpack, who shot 30 percent.
UNC: The Tar Heels shocked everybody with their win against the Fighting Irish last Sunday, with Watts proclaiming afterward: “We’re a better team than what our record shows.” It’s hard to argue now after the past week.
“I kept telling them,” Hatchell said. “I said, ‘Guys, y’all have just got to understand, I’ve been doing this 44 years. Y’all are good. We’ve just got to get over the hump a little bit.’”
N.C. State: The Wolfpack had savored a remarkable start that stood as the best start in school history and the program’s highest ranking since January 2000. That had come despite injury concerns that included the loss of top scorer Grace Hunter to a knee injury. Leslie, Aislinn Konig and the rest of the Wolfpack had kept winning but now must regroup with a tough schedule ahead.
“We’ve been a little stagnant,” Wolfpack coach Wes Moore said. “I’ve been disappointed in practice the last week or so. And again, it’s tough, because you don’t have a lot of subs and depth in practice, so you’re tempted to pace yourself. But we’ve got to get back a little more urgency in practice.”
UNC’s Paris Kea scored 13 of her 17 points after halftime, shaking off a 2-for-12 shooting start in the first half. That came after she had 30 points and 10 assists against the Fighting Irish.
N.C. State led 32-31 at halftime, but it wasn’t long into the third quarter when the shots stopped falling. The Wolfpack went more than 10 minutes without a basket and missed 12 straight shots at one point.
A FAMILIAR SIGHT
It was a rough shooting weekend for both nationally ranked N.C. State basketball programs.
On Saturday, the 23rd-ranked men’s team managed just 24 points in a loss to Virginia Tech for the lowest point total by any ACC team in the shot-clock era. The Wolfpack men — who also shot an ACC-record-low 16.7 percent — made 3 of 23 shots after halftime in that game, then the Wolfpack women nearly matched that by making 4 of 23 shots after halftime against the Tar Heels on Sunday.
UNC: The Tar Heels host rival Duke on Thursday.
N.C. State: The Wolfpack will get plenty of travel miles in February, starting with Thursday’s game at No. 24 Florida State.
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