Deacs upset UNC to open ACC campaign

The win extends Wake Forest’s winning streak to three in their series against the Tar Heels

Essex Thayer, Staff Writer

On Thursday night, the Wake Forest women’s basketball team opened the doors to the Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum for the first time this season and left with a 57-54 upset against North Carolina, an exciting start to conference play for the Lady Deacs. 

The win extends Wake Forest’s winning streak to three in their series against the Tar Heels, their longest since 1988-90. The Demon Deacons defeated North Carolina once, both in the regular season, and conference tournament, last season.

While the Deacs had gotten the better of the Tar Heels recently, they entered this matchup as underdogs, with North Carolina ranked No. 28 and Wake Forest No. 32, according to ESPN. With upsets over two well-regarded teams in Missouri State and the aforementioned Tar Heels, Wake Forest now has a chance to be ranked in the Top 25 when the rankings are released next week. A Top 25 appearance would be a massive accomplishment for Coach Jen Hoover’s program, which has only been to the NCAA Tournament once in 1988, a team she herself starred on. 

So far this season, the Demon Deacons’ calling card has been a fast start. On Thursday however, the Tar Heels doubled Wake’s first-quarter score. In the first half, Wake Forest’s struggles came on offense, where they shot 23% from the field and went 0-10 from behind the three-point arc. 

Their poor shooting was supplemented by seven points from the free-throw line. To remain in the game, the Demon Deacons had to rely on their defense, which held North Carolina to 25 points, their lowest first half score of the season.

Wake Forest finally found their footing in the second half, going on a 6-2 run to begin the third quarter, cutting the deficit to two points. In the final quarter, the Deacs turned on the jets, leading them to victory, outscoring the Tar Heels 21-16 while shooting 62% from the field.

Gina Conti piloted the Deacons offense with a team-high 16 points, three assists and three steals. On defense, Ivana Raca led the team with 12 rebounds while also adding 14 points.

“This was a win that shows we can win in a variety of ways. It shows our team that sometimes we will need to rely on our defense,” Hoover said following the game. “To come in and hold a team that was averaging over 90 points to just 54 tonight, proves we can win on both ends of the floor. It feels great, especially with it being our first game at home. It is always great to start ACC play 1-0.”

Following the cancellation of their matchup on Sunday against Norfolk State, Wake Forest will face another ACC opponent in NC State on Dec. 17.