CHAPEL HILL — N.C. State womens basketball players grimaced as North Carolina ticked off eight points to start the second half of Sundays contest, clearly frustrated with the lack of offensive rebounding and sluggish tempo.
With shoulders dropping and faces tightening, State coach Kellie Harper called a timeout three minutes into the half and expressed a need for players to change their corrosive body language.
The kids responded, said Harper, whose Wolfpack (16-11, 6-6) squad rallied for a 74-63 victory over the Tar Heels (17-9, 5-7) at Carmichael Arena. They changed their body language. They walked back out there with a lot more confidence.
That confidence translated into a 15-0 State run midway through the second half that swung the momentum of the game and eventually derailed the Heels. It was a State run staked on precise shooting - back-to-back-to-back 3-pointers by Marissa Kastanek and Emili Tasler - and rugged rebounding.
In the end, the Heels inability to defend State - a team that shot 47.3 percent from the field - resulted in its sixth loss in seven games.
The Pack, led by sophomore Bonae Holstons 20 points and nine rebounds, captured its first victory over its oldest rival since 2007 and upended the Heels at home for the first time since 2004. It seemed to boost the confidence of a team that has had to find a way to make up for its size disadvantage in the post.
I say its really high right now, Kastanek said. The freshman point guard finished with 17 points, six rebounds, seven turnovers, five assists.
State is now tied with Wake Forest for fifth place in the ACC with two regular-season games remaining - against Wake on Thursday and Georgia Tech on Sunday. Victories in those games could help better position the Pack entering the ACC Tournament March 4-7.
Winning its third consecutive game, State confounded the Heels, who held a 50-42 lead with 11 minutes remaining. Pack players were physical and outworked their opponents on the glass, securing a 44-42 rebounding edge.
Poor shooting didnt help the Heels as they shot 35.1 percent from the field (26-for-74). They missed wide open layups and uncontested jump shots.
While they played hard, there was no salve for what has ailed the Heels during conference play.
Its like a bad dream, North Carolina coach Sylvia Hatchell said. Weve been practicing really hard. I think weve had some good practices. ... But it seems like we get out there and we have break downs. ... But you know what, were going to keep on kicking until we break that door down and get things rolling again.
Before defeating Wake Forest in overtime on Thursday, the Heels had dropped five in row, losing to Florida State, Miami, Duke, Boston College and Virginia Tech. It was the first time they had faced such a conference losing stretch since 1999.
The last time the Heels, who have won four conference tournament championships in the past five seasons, lost seven ACC games was in 2001.
UNC players have run the emotional gamut as they struggle to figure out their problems. On Sunday, players seemed more perplexed than frustrated by their current predicament.
Several wondered aloud why teammates would relax when they pulled ahead by eight in the second half and allowed the Pack to rally.
Theres no excuse as to why we shouldnt have won that game, said UNC junior Cetera DeGraffenreid, who scored a game-high 22 points. You cant have frustration when you know you should have played harder. ... Before there was frustration as to why arent we playing hard. We came out and played hard in the Wake Forest game, Virginia game. Theres no excuse as to why we shouldnt be doing it now.
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