Four days after falling out of the national rankings, the women’s basketball team rebounded from its loss to Florida State by defeating the No. 2 North Carolina Tar Heels at Alexander Memorial Coliseum, 66-62. The win was Tech’s eighth victory ever against a team ranked in the top 10 in the nation, and the first over a team ranked higher than fourth.
“This was obviously one of the most significant wins in the history of our program. I don’t know that we’ve ever beaten the No. 2 team in the country…We thought we were capable of it all along if we put two good halves together and executed our game plan,” said Head Coach MaChelle Joseph.
Tech jumped out to a quick lead in the first half, but UNC went ahead 5-4 with just under fifteen minutes left in the first half and held on for the remainder of the half. Tech managed to keep the game close most of the way, but with 4:41 left, the Tar Heels began a 10-3 run to close out the half, and they took a 31-22 lead as the teams headed into the locker rooms. Despite a strong defensive effort, Tech was hindered by the same shooting woes that have plagued the team all season; for the fourth time this year, they shot under 30 percent in the first half.
As the second half began, Tech was falling out of the game, as the Tar Heels’ lead grew to 15 points. However, Tech then scored four consecutive baskets in a two-minute span as they went on a 14-3 run. The stretch culminated when sophomore guard Alex Montgomery stole the ball and hit freshman forward Chelsea Regins with a coast-to-coast pass for an easy basket, and then Regins stole the inbound pass and hit Montgomery for a layup. Suddenly Tech was within four points, down 40-36 with just over 12 minutes left in the game. After the team closed to within two points, sophomore guard Shaday Woolcock recorded consecutive steals that led to a game-tying layup by Regins and, shortly afterward, the go-ahead score by Montgomery with 8:20 left in the game. The 51-49 lead was Tech’s first since the team led 4-2 in the opening minutes.
The teams traded slim leads for the next five minutes, but after Tech opened up a 62-57 lead with 3:30 left, the Tar Heels scored five straight points—all on free throws—to tie the game with just over a minute remaining in regulation. Sophomore forward Iasia Hemingway’s layup with 56 seconds left gave Tech a 64-62 lead, but the Tar Heels grabbed an offensive rebound after missing a shot shortly afterward; however, Woolcock took advantage of a poor handoff pass between UNC’s Chay Shegog and Cetera DeGraffenreid, stealing the ball and forcing Tar Heel star Rashanda McCants to foul out in the process. Tech senior guard Jacqua Williams drained both free throws to increase the Jackets’ lead to four points, and the 66-62 lead would hold until the end.
With the victory, Tech ended a six-year drought against UNC and an eight-year drought at Alexander Memorial Coliseum.
“We were down 15 points in the second half, and for them to come back, with mostly freshmen and sophomores on the floor, was a tremendous accomplishment,” Joseph said.
The Jackets shot 47.1 percent from the field in the second half. Though Montgomery shot only 33 percent for the game, her 17 points and 10 rebounds led the team. She also recorded four steals, second only to Woolcock’s six. Hemingway and Williams also reached double-digit points, scoring 12 and 14, respectively.