The Florida State Seminoles (14-2, 2-1 ACC) delivered a steady effort against the North Carolina Tar Heels (11-4, 0-2 ACC) earning a 90-77 victory.
The 2016-2017 season was supposed to be a big one for North Carolina. The Tar Heels signed the consensus #1 recruiting class in the nation in 2013. It featured Diamond DeShields (#3 overall recruit according to HoopGurlz), Allisha Gray (#7), Jessica Washington (#14), and Stephanie Mavunga (#23). This is the type of class that is supposed to put you in the thick of the national championship race. Then the NCAA launched an investigation into bogus classes at UNC. After that every single player in that celebrated class ended up transferring. DeShields transferred to Tennessee. Gray is now at South Carolina while Mavunga went to Ohio State and Washington took her talents to Kansas. All four of those players would have been seniors this year and UNC's prospects would look radically different if they had stayed.
Unfortunately for Head Coach Sylvia Hatchell they all decided to transfer and that led the Heels to have a 14-18 (4-12, ACC) record last year. Due to the loss of talent, Hatchell was forced to look in the campus cafeteria for tall girls to add to the roster. In fact, a student from the women's crew team ended up playing important minutes for UNC last year.
This year the Tar Heels replenished the roster with a recruiting class ranked #13 in the nation. They took seven players and it featured 5* Taylor Koenen (#44 overall) and 4* Shayla Bennett (#65 overall). Adding those players to a roster that includes promising sophomores Stephanie Watts (ACC Freshman of the Year) and Destinee Walker (ACC Freshman 1st team) means that UNC has a chance to improve on last year's disappointment.
Florida State is not a big team but North Carolina is even smaller. The Heels have seven players listed at six feet or taller but they are all freshmen except for 6'2 senior Hillary Fuller. This lack of size has led to the Heels averaging fewer rebounds than their opponents on the season. This also means that they have virtually no post presence offensively. That has resulted in them averaging only .947 points per possession on offense which is #96 in the nation. They are a bit better defensively only surrendering .792 points per possession on defense which is 36th nationally. FSU is at 1.107 OPPP (#7) and .742 DPPP (#9).
Because of the size issues UNC needs to shoot a high percentage (especially from behind the arc) and limit turnovers. They routinely try to raise their offense to the elbow and try to hit you with backdoor plays. They also try to run but if it isn't there they tend to take most of the shot clock in their half court sets. Watts (19.6 ppg, 9.1 rpg) and Walker (12.6 ppg) are the main threats while Vanderbilt transfer Paris Kea chips in with 14.7 ppg.
Florida State entered the game fresh off a disappointing defeat against NC State needing a win to get back on track. Although UNC is not as talented as they have been in the past FSU has had trouble at Carmichael Arena entering the game with a 3-16 record there.
The game was close early as UNC had an answer for the Noles every time they tried to build a lead. However with 3 and a half minutes left in the first quarter Leticia Romero (14pts) hit a three ball to spark FSU. The Noles went on a 10-2 run to take a 26-17 first quarter lead.
In the second, the teams mostly traded baskets until UNC made a little run to cut the lead to five on a Fuller (5pts, 6reb) old fashioned three point play. From there Imani Wright (22pts, 5reb) hit a three and Maria Conde (8pts) hit a jumper to put the Seminoles up 41-31 at the half.
In the third, FSU extended their run to 13 straight points when Wright drained a three. The two teams mostly traded baskets after that until Watts hit a desperation three to beat the clock at the end of the third period to cut FSU's lead to 63-49.
In the last quarter, FSU went on a 10-2 run to stretch the lead to 80-61 midway through the quarter. To their credit UNC didn't quit. The Heels outscored FSU 16-10 from that point on to close the final gap to 90-77.
FSU was led by Wright's 22 points and Ivey Slaughter chipped in with 16 points and eight boards. Chatrice White had another double-double with 11 points and 11 rebounds along with four blocks. FSU outrebounded the Heels 37-30 but they got 16 offensive boards to only eight for North Carolina. That led to the stat of the game which was that FSU took 73 shots to only 55 for UNC. Therefore even though the shooting percentage was about even, 49.3% for FSU to 49.1% for UNC, the Noles emerged with a double digit win.
Overall FSU played better this game than their somewhat lethargic performance against NC State. However, UNC simply doesn't have the talent to really challenge the Noles this year. Stronger challenges await and FSU will have to continue to improve to reach their goals this year.
Speaking of stronger challenges, #13 Duke (14-1, 2-0 ACC) will visit the TLCCC on Sunday, Jan 8th at 3pm. The game will be carried on ACC Network Extra (ESPN 3). The Blue Devils defeated Georgia Tech tonight 75-68 in Atlanta.