CHAPEL HILL, NC -- After losing the last two games of the season by a combined four points, the North Carolina women's basketball team came back with a vengeance Tuesday against Florida A&M.
"We've just been working hard, keeping our heads up and talking about the good things we were doing, and I know that this team is just going to continue to get better and better," Head Coach Sylvia Hatchell said after praising her two McDonald's All-American freshman, Destinee Walker and Stephanie Watts, for their stellar performance against the Florida A&M Rattlers.
Walker was already starting for the Heels, but tonight she showed a little more of what she was made of. Right from the beginning of the first quarter, Walker came out strong, scoring the team's first point within the first five minutes, which should have been a prediction of how the game was going to go.
Watts was Carolina's second in leading for most points (27 points), mainly coming from her three-point shots. Watts missed one of the three-pointers in the first half, but her effort wasn't wasted, because Walker soared in for the rebound, picking up a foul, and making two free throws. Walker would lead the Heels in scoring with 32 points and 10 rebounds.
The Heels ended the first half with a lead of 57 to 29.
Tuesday's performance showed a lot more team activity in comparison to Sunday's 77-79 loss to Oregon in which Tar Heel guard Jamie Cherry seemed to carry the Heels.
"I think we did a little wrong by Jamie," Walker said, referring to Sunday's game.
On Tuesday, however, the Tar Heel players took more ownership.
"I did feel like she had the team on her back, with us stepping up," Walker said. "She didn't have to do as much. We could just all come together."
The Florida A&M Rattlers struggled against the Heels as the majority of their starting lineup fell into foul trouble. Rattlers senior guard, Olivia Antilla, was the leading scorer for the Rattlers, putting up 17 points
The Heels jumped to a huge lead 90-52 with two minutes left in the game.
The Rattlers tried to keep up with Carolina's fast-paced game, but their efforts just weren't enough to keep the game even close. Carolina won 94 to 58.
UNC's powerhouse forward Xylina McDaniel sat out the last two games, possibly games that could have had a different outcome, but now that Hatchell has received an all thumbs up to let McDaniel back on the court Hatchell is ready for her senior forward to play again.
"She practiced some yesterday," Hatchell said. "She warmed up tonight, but she will be back out there this weekend. We're looking forward to playing her this weekend."
Maybe McDaniels will be the missing piece of the puzzle for this team,
The Heels will play Fairleigh Dickinson at 6 p.m., Friday in Chapel Hill. The next game for Rattlers is at 7 p.m., Friday in Orlando against the University of Central Florida.