Riding a four-game winning streak, which includes a pair of key victories over top-10 teams, North Carolina is now a contender in the Atlantic Coast Conference with a bright NCAA tournament outlook.
The Tar Heels, 14-9 overall and 5-4 in ACC play, have taken advantage of its recent opportunities with wins last week over Georgia Tech, 91-90 and previously undefeated and No. 7 ranked North Carolina State, 64-51. These wins came less than a week after stunning top ranked Notre Dame in what was the program's first win against a No. 1-ranked team in nearly 13 years.
North Carolina’s win over N.C. State on Sunday came against the only unbeaten men’s or women’s team in NCAA Division I. Stephanie Watts led the way with 20 points to help the Tar Heels end N.C. State's 21-game winning streak to start the season. Janelle Bailey added 16 points and 13 rebounds for the Tar Heels, who shot 39 percent and made a season-low four 3-pointers. 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 Notre Dame.
The Tar Heels scored 18 points off 14 turnovers by the Wolfpack. N.C. State led 32-31 at halftime, but the Wolfpack went more than 10 minutes without a basket and missed 12 straight shots at one point. Kiara Leslie had 17 points and 12 rebounds to lead the Wolfpack, who were held to 30 percent shooting by North Carolina.
In the Jan. 31 win at home over Georgia Tech, Bailey's free throw with 0.9 seconds left in regulation sealed North Carolina’s one-point victory over the Yellow Jackets. Kea, the reigning national player of the week, led the way with 29 points for North Carolina, while Bailey added 20 points and six rebounds. Kea, put the Tar Heels up 90-87 with eight seconds remaining in the fourth quarter, but Georgia Tech answered with Elizabeth Balogun converting three free throws with two seconds to go after Watts fouled out when she hit Balogun's arm on a three-point attempt. North Carolina advanced the ball into the front court with a timeout. Taylor Koenen then found Bailey in the paint, who turned to the hoop and was fouled. She knocked down the second free throw to secure the Tar Heels' win.
North Carolina, which received votes for the top 25 in the latest Associated Press’ women’s college basketball poll, will next host rival Duke on Thursday, Feb. 7, before traveling to Clemson on Feb. 10.