Chapel Hill, NC -- North Carolina hosted Northwestern in the 2015 ACC/Big Ten Women's Basketball Challenge, and the Wildcats pounced the Tar Heels. Northwestern dominated the first half and led the entire the game, winning 85 to 72. The two teams had not met since 1994, when the Tar Heels bested the Wildcats 98-75.
Joe McKeown, in his eighth season as head coach of the Wildcats, said, "I thought we played a great game, but I think we ran out of gas at the end."
The Wildcats came out strong, and they started the game with 11 unanswered points. Xylina McDaniel finally broke their streak bringing the score to 11 to 2, but the Wildcats continued their momentum bringing the score 19 to four. Northwestern was taking great shots and just was not missing.
Northwestern led at halftime with a 23-point lead, with a score of 52 to 29. Nia Coffey led the Wildcats with 18 points, followed by Christen Inman, who captured her own 11, and Maggie Lyon and Ashley Deary added their own 10 and nine points, respectively. Comparatively, there were no standouts for Carolina in the first half. No Tar Heel broke 10 points, although McDaniel came close making four out of her five shots for eight points.
At the start of the second half, the Tar Heels took the floor with a newfound vigor. Destinee Walker captured the first points of the half with an uncontested three-point shot.
McDaniel claimed the next two points by making both of her free throws, after getting fouled driving to the basket. Walker made another three-point basket, and Xylina followed with two back-to-back layups. However, the Wildcats were quick to answer and took back control of the game.
And after an aggressive fourth quarter where Destinee Walker, N'Dea Bryant, and Xylina McDaniel fought to get the Tar Heels back in the game, with 3:20 left in the game the Heels closed the gap to 10 points. The crowd was going wild, but the Wildcats answered all of UNC's impressive plays and baskets with some of their own. With 20 seconds remaining, Northwestern held onto the ball and Carolina fell short to Northwestern by 13 points.
McKeown admits the strategy was to play fast in an attempt to outrun the Tar Heels and take advantage of their short bench. He highlighted that he was very proud of his team and the progress they are making, adding "I'm glad I had Nia Coffey and Maggie Lyon on my team... Maggie as a senior has just shown tremendous toughness."
Maggie Lyon led the Wildcats with an impressive 31-point performance, followed by Nia Coffey, who added her own 22. Lyon stated, "We try to come out as hard as we can, and attack every game like it's the National Championship." And, it showed.
"I kept thinking, ‘when are they going to miss?'," said Sylvia Hatchell, head coach of the Tar Heels. "They have four players that can score from anywhere on the court."
Xylina McDaniel led the Tar Heels with 22 points, while N'Dea Bryant and Destinee Walker secured their own 16 and 14 points, respectively; Bryant went seven for nine, and McDaniel went ten for fifteen.
McDaniel and Bryant wished they penetrated and drove to the basket earlier in the game, agreeing that they thought it would have made a difference.
"They're a great team," said Hatchell. "We'll get there eventually."