First look: UNC Women's Basketball

It was short, but it was telling.

The North Carolina women's basketball team took the floor for the first time before UNC fans at Late Night With Roy, challenging its scout team in a 12-minute scrimmage in the Smith Center. The Tar Heels won, 24-23, but the result was irrelevant. What did matter, however, was how the team looked during those 12 minutes.

Here are three takeaways from the Tar Heels' first "game action" of 2017-18:

A force down low

For years, the Tar Heels' glaring weakness has been their lack of a post presence, on both ends of the ball. But freshman center Janelle Bailey, at 6-foot-4, just might be the solution.

Bailey missed her first shot, a rough miss that hit the underside of the backboard, but she scored the game's first points on a putback off a Paris Kea missed three. She tried a nice turnaround later to no avail, but late in the game, Bailey showed off a nice shimmy spin down the baseline to give the Tar Heels their final points.

She wasn't perfect, and she shouldn't be expected to be before her first collegiate tip. But her mere size, coupled with what teammates are calling a seasoned feel for the game, will do wonders for UNC this season.

Power of the point

This offseason, coach Sylvia Hatchell has challenged guard Jamie Cherry to drive more and find her teammates when they're open. On Friday, the team's lone senior delivered.

Cherry drove with ease through the scout team defense and whipped it to open Tar Heels along the perimeter on numerous occasions. She's never had an issue passing — Cherry was second on the team last year in assists — but that willingness to pas should be rewarded this year with a greater collection of talent on the roster. Cherry also dumped it off to Bailey down low, something she didn't often do with UNC's post players the past two seasons.

Redshirt junior guard Paris Kea, a natural point guard, also showed off her skills leading the offense as she transitions back from the wing and forward positions she played last year. She led the secondary transition with confidence, finding teammates up ahead and even turning in a nice mid-range pull-up off the dribble when her teammates weren't open. Kea seemed comfortable with the ball in her hands, which she'll see more this season than ever before.

Jamie Cherry (middle) defends the scout team during Friday's scrimmage.

Jamie Cherry (middle) defends the scout team during Friday's scrimmage.

Bringing it all together

On Thursday, Hatchell said the team has potential to be great this season but is still working on "bringing it all together."

Thus far, the Tar Heels are still doing just that. Offensively, UNC looked sloppy, missing "gimme" layups and throwing the ball away in careless situations. At times, the entire unit looked disjointed. But those moments of promise — Bailey forcing her way inside, Cherry's drive-and-dishing, Kea's assertive play — were just as frequent.

Defensively, it was the same story. The Tar Heels were aggressive — especially redshirt freshman Jocelyn Jones, who looked energized after missing all of 2016-17 with an injury. The team collapsed well when switching to zone, and the scout team didn't get many opportunities in transition. But North Carolina never quite looked in sync in its man-to-man defense, and the scout team took advantage of the natural lapses.

There were enough glimpses, though, to signal what should be a rebound year for the Tar Heels. Sure, they couldn't bring it all together Friday (even in a win). But when key players return from injury and the team develops on-court chemistry through its friendly non-conference schedule, this team just might fulfill Hatchell's hopes.


photos by Gabi Palacio