By Carey Phillips
Two days after making Coach Kiley Hill a winner in his Western Carolina coaching debut, WCU’s women’s basketball team was on the losing end as a coach gained her first win at her new school last Thursday.
North Carolina shook off a slow start and cruised to a 92-55 victory over Western Carolina at Carmichael Arena. It was the first game at the UNC helm for Courtney Banghart.
Janelle Bailey had a double-double for the Tar Heels with 21 points and 10 rebounds. Malu Tshitenge followed with 19 points, while Taylor Koenen and Shayla Bennett both had 17.
Jewel Smalls had a big game for the Lady Cats (1-1) with 23 points and 10 rebounds, but no one else was in double figures.
WCU led 7-3 on Jada Miller’s three-pointer with 4:39 to play in the first quarter and was still up 12-10 after Lauren LaPlant’s trey at the 1:42 mark.
UNC finished the quarter on an 8-2 run, including four by Tshitenge, for an 18-14 lead.
The Tar Heels started the second period on a 13-2 spurt, including six by Koenen, for a 31-16 advantage on Kennady Tucker’s steal and layup at the 5:24 mark.
Koenen’s three-pointer made it 38-20 with 2:06 on the clock, and Carolina was on top 43-29 at halftime.
UNC opened the second half with eight straight points, including six by Bailey, extending the margin to 51-29 with 6:55 remaining in the third period.
The lead reached 61-35 after Tshitenge’s free throw with 59 seconds to go in the stanza, and it was 61-37 entering the fourth quarter.
The Lady Heels pulled away with a 16-2 run, including six by Bennett, to lead 92-54 with 23 seconds on the clock.
Carolina shot 45.1 percent from the floor and limited the Lady Cats to 35.2 percent shooting.
UNC had a 45-32 rebounding advantage.
Western was hurt by 22 turnovers, while the Tar Heels committed 10.
Completing the WCU scoring were Lauren LaPlant with nine, Judith Martin-Ruiz with eight, Miller and Andrea Martin-Ruiz both with four, Alyssa Walker with three, and Diarra Smith and Tembre Moates with two apiece.