At the conclusion of a game that saw UNC’s high-octane offense explode for 50 points in the second half, coach Sylvia Hatchell took the microphone of the public address announcer and apologized to the crowd of 7,080 for her team’s performance in the game’s first 17 minutes.
Indeed, Duke dominated the game up until that point, with smothering defense that kept the Heels’ shooting under 20 percent. UNC’s 10-0 run, however, closed the gap at the break to 27-25. In the second half, the Tar Heels succeeded in establishing the tempo and scored 50 points to Duke’s 33.
Afterward, the always quotable Hatchell told the media that her team had mistakenly believed the nationally televised game was scheduled to begin at 8:15 p.m., not 7:30, as Rashanda McCants and Jessica Breland sat next to her with sheepish smiles.
So, what happened? How did the erratically performing, eighth-ranked Tar Heels so completely dominate No. 4 Duke in the final 23 minutes?
A grim Joanne McCallie, coach of Duke, blamed her team’s poor control of the tempo in the first halfa seemingly counterintuitive observation of a period in which her Blue Devils held the explosive UNC squad to 25 points on miserable shooting and 20 turnovers. But, she said, her team failed to capitalize adequately on the Heels’ miscues, rushing shots en route to 25.6 percent shooting.
Duke’s full-court pressure bothered UNC in the first half, but Hatchell made adjustments at the break that she said amounted to moving up her big players and instructing them to look for the wings racing down the sidelines. Duke backed off the pressure in the second periodbut if they hadn’t, it’s not clear that they would have had the stamina to keep up with the deep UNC team.
McCants poured in 22 points on 9-13 shooting to lead the offense, but the game’s most dominant performance came from Breland, who hauled in 23 rebounds, the most in UNC history since Charlotte Smith’s heroics in the 1994 national championship game. Breland also scored 14 points and combined with Chay Shegog and Iman McFarland to hold Duke’s six-foot-five post stalwart Chante Black to 7 rebounds and 13 points on 4-15 shooting. Breland also blocked five shots.
The Tar Heels recovered from their woeful early shooting to finish at 45.8 percent, while Duke shot 30 percent for the game. The Heels outrebounded the Devils 54-38.
The Heels elevated their record to 21-3, 6-2 in the ACC, while Duke dropped to 19-3, 7-2.
Three of the Tar Heels’ next four games are on the road. The next home game, however, is the Feb. 15 grudge match against Georgia Tech, who defeated the Heels last month 66-62. Game time is 3 p.m. in the Smith Center. The Duke-UNC rematch is set for March 1 in Cameron Indoor Stadium.
Here’s the box score.