JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. – The 228-day wait is over for Carson-Newman as the Lady Eagles lace it up for the first time since the end of their championship campaign Thursday night at North Carolina in an exhibition contest slated for 6 p.m.
"It's a great experience to play an ACC opponent," Carson-Newman coach Mike Mincey said. "First and foremost we would like to get out of the game healthy. At the same time, we want to be super competitive and represent Division II. I'm sure coach Hatchell is excited to get [Stephanie] Watts and [Destinee] Walker back in the lineup to provide more depth. It's going to be a daunting task to try to guard them but it's only going to make us better getting ready for Tennessee and beyond."
Thursday evening marks the 10th time the Lady Eagles will hop on a bus and head to Chapel Hill, N.C. for an exhibition contest having lost each of the first nine attempts. The Tar Heels have scored triple digits seven times but have not crossed that mark since a 111-50 victory in 2013.
The last time the two programs met came on Nov. 2, 2016 when North Carolina pulled out a 96-70 triumph at Carmichael Arena. After leading 43-39 at the break, the Lady Eagles held a 52-50 edge with 4:19 to play in the third quarter before the Tar Heels scored 13 of the final 15 points of the stanza to take a 63-54 advantage into the fourth quarter. The 43 points at halftime were more than the team had scored in the entire in four of the previous five outings.
Eleven different players scored for Mincey's group with two players in double figures including Mika Wester in her first-career game in the Orange and Blue. The forward finished with 11 points and three rebounds.
Taylor Koenen, a freshman at the time, pace UNC with 23 points and nine rebounds and fellow rookie Stephanie Watts added 22 points and 11 boards.
The Tar Heels have produced three consecutive seasons with an overall record under .500 as Carson-Newman alumna Sylvia Hatchell has just eight such years in her 32 campaigns in Chapel Hill. The 1998 inductee into the Eagle Hall of Fame became the third women's coach in history and fourth in both genders of hoops to win 1,000 games when UNC took down Grambling State on Dec. 19, 2017.
Entering the year, the Atlantic Conference coaches picked Carolina to finish seventh in the 15-team league with Notre Dame a unanimous choice at the top.
Two players, Paris Kea and Janelle Bailey, were named to the preseason All-ACC team. Kea, a senior, is a preseason third-team All-American and is on the Nancy Lieberman Award watch list for the top point guard in the nation. In 15 minutes two years ago, she went 3-for-5 from the field scoring seven points with five rebounds in 15 minutes of action. In 2017-18 she had four games with at least 30 points. The Vanderbilt transfer became the fourth player in school history to record 1,000 points in the first two seasons of her career.
Bailey was the 2018 ACC Freshman of the Year after nearly averaging a double-double with 15 points and nine rebounds with 13 double-doubles as a rookie. The sophomore has been named to the Lisa Leslie Award Watch List given to the top center in Division I basketball.
Last season, the Tar Heels were one of the worst defensive units in the nation allowing 74 points per game to rank 331st out of the 341 clubs allowing at least 80 points 11 times. Opponents shot 42 percent from the field last season as UNC was 10-1 when foes shot below 40 percent and 5-15 when posting a mark above 40.
On offense, the team was among the most selfless registering 16 per contest a season ago to rank 36th in the country. With 73 points per game, the Tar Heels were 48th in the country as three players posted at least 15 points per game led by Kea's 19.4, good for 40th in America.
Broadcast coverage starts at 5:45 p.m. with "The AEC Countdown to Tip-Off" on 106.3 (WPFT-FM) and cneagles.com/live courtesy of the Eagle Sports Network. The game will air on the ESPN app or by clicking here with stats available here.
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