ACC WBB: Tar Heels’ season ends with second-round loss to Orange

Randall Hill, ACC, The ACC.com

CONWAY, S.C. – The North Carolina Tar Heels’ season ended with an 83-64 second-round loss to 21st-ranked and No. 6 seed Syracuse in Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) Tournament play at HTC Center on Thursday.

Guard Jamie Cherry’s 24 points, including five 3-pointers, wasn’t enough for 14th-seeded North Carolina (15-16) as ACC Player of the Year Alexis Peterson led all scorers with 29 points and went 5-for-9 from beyond the arc for the Orange (21-9).

The Tar Heels entered postseason play without standout guards Stephanie Watts or Destinee Walker – both out with knee injuries.

As a result, UNC couldn’t keep pace with Peterson and the rest of the Orange lineup that earned a spot in the quarterfinals with the win.

“I was really proud of these kids, our whole team for battling and fighting hard through a lot of adversity with injured players and being very, very young out there,” UNC head coach Sylvia Hatchell said.

“You know, of course with one junior, one sophomore and the rest of them are all freshmen, but the biggest difference was in the game was the second-chance points. Actually our field goal percentage was actually better than theirs, but it was just the rebounding and second-chance points that was the difference in the game.”

Having finished the season at 15-16 overall, the Tar Heels will miss NCAA postseason play for the second straight year.

Regardless, Hatchell believed that playing with the youngest team in the conference will bode well for the future.

“I’m proud of our kids, and we’re going to work hard in the off-season,” Hatchell said.

“We lose no one, and we get some of these hurt and injured players back, and we’ve got a really good group coming in, class coming in next year, and so we’re looking forward to working hard and getting back to being a great team next year.”

Notes: The teams combined to connect on a tournament single-game record 22 shots from 3-point range. Each side made 11 shots from beyond the arc, one shy of the single-team record of 12 accomplished three times, including last season by Syracuse vs. NC State in the quarterfinals…Peterson went 4-for-5 from 3-point range and scored 20 points in the first half, leading the Orange to a 45-34 lead at the break…Cherry finished postseason play with 10 three-pointers in UNC’s two games in this year’s tournament…Paris Kea added 17 points for UNC, and Olivia Smith had 12 on four 3-pointers…Syracuse outrebounded the Tar Heels 50-23 as both Brittney Sykes (16 points, 12 rebounds) and Briana Day (11 points, 15 boards) registered double-doubles.