Women's Basketball Stuns No. 2 North Carolina, 72-65
Updated:12:15 a.m., 2/17/2007
BY TIM PEELER
RALEIGH, N.C. – Kay Yow knew going into Friday night’s game against No. 2 North Carolina that the Reynolds Coliseum floor was going to be named in her honor. The NC State Board of Trustees approved the unprecedented move Friday morning.
But Yow – nor anyone else in the building Friday evening – could have anticipated her team’s performance against the Tar Heels after the announcement was made in a tearful, pre-game ceremony.
The Wolfpack stunned the Tar Heels – who had won five in a row in Reynolds, dating back to 2001 – in front of a raucous crowd of 7,460, with a 72-65 upset, the Wolfpack’s first win against its biggest rival since a 2004 victory in Chapel Hill.
“I can’t even gauge my emotions right now,” Yow said after the game, her team’s sixth victory in the seven games since she returned from an extended leave of absence for breast cancer treatment. “It was Senior Night, the court was named in my honor, we won against our arch-rival, which was highly ranked – there were just so many things that made tonight special. It’s really over-whelming.
“It was very emotional night from the moment I first saw the seniors come out. It just kept building and building. It was an incredible evening.”
But Yow’s team had to survive a furious UNC rally in the second half, in which a lead that had reached as many as 26 points before halftime dwindled to just three points on two occasions late in the game.
However, the Wolfpack seniors were not going to let their farewell victory in Reynolds slip away. In particular, senior Ashley Key made sure that the Wolfpack held on, hitting a key jumper with 1:36 remaining, grabbing two important rebounds in the final minute of action and knocking down four consecutive free throws after two teammates missed front ends of two one-and-one opportunities.
Key finished the game with 12 points, six assists and four rebounds, as all five of the Wolfpack seniors who played in the contest scored in double figures. Keisha Brown led the team with a season-high 16 points, while Marquetta Dickens had 15, Sasha Reaves had 11 and Gillian Goring had 10.
“We knew coming into the game that this was a special night,” Reaves said. “I kept telling everyone ‘Let’s go give it all we have.’ We knew we were playing for a special person.”
The Wolfpack came out blazing, making 54.5 percent of its shots before the half, while the Tar Heels were as frosty as the February evening, making just 10 of their 34 shots (29.4 percent) before intermission. With six minutes to play in the first half, the Wolfpack led 44-18.
Brown and Dickens were the leaders of Wolfpack’s initial Senior Night outburst, with each scoring in double-figures before halftime. Brown’s two free throws with 3:16 remaining in the first half gave her team its biggest lead of the game, thrilling a partisan home crowd.
The Wolfpack (19-8 overall, 8-4 ACC) built its lead by taking care of the ball and making its shots, committing just five turnovers in the first half.
Meanwhile, Key’s defense on North Carolina guard Ivory Latta forced her into another horrific shooting night. She missed her first seven shots and finished the game just 5-for-21 from the field. She missed all eight of her 3-point shots. Latta was also called for a technical foul with 9:15 remaining in the half that the Wolfpack turned into a three-point possession.
“We just wanted to try to create problems for her with our quickness and our length, since we are obviously taller than her,” Key said. “It was a great team effort to keep her out of her rhythm.”
Latta ended her shooting skid with a layup right before intermission, as the Tar Heels closed the gap to 46-27 with just seconds remaining. But it was certainly an unexpected situation for a team that had not trailed by more than five points at the half all season long.
The Tar Heels (25-2, 9-2) fought back in the second half, with LaToya Pringle scoring the first five points after intermission. The Tar Heels took advantage of NC State’s 15 second-half turnovers to make its comeback, not to mention an incredible shooting performance by making 13 of its first 19 shots of the second half.
But UNC coach Sylvia Hatchell thought there was just too much emotion in Reynolds Friday night for her team to overcome.
“All factors considered, it was going to be hard for us to win over here, no matter what,” Hatchell said.
It was an emotional night, even for the famously stoic Key, who late-game effort sealed the win. She found herself standing in the middle of Kay Yow Court when students and fans rushed the court when the final buzzer sounded.
“I always dreamed about seeing the fans rush the court,” Key said. “I have seen it a couple of times on television and I always wanted to be part of one. I guess dreams can come true.”
The Wolfpack, which completes its home season with a 15-1 record at home this season, plays its final two regular-season contests on the road, at Virginia Tech at noon Sunday and at Miami on Feb. 24.You may contact Tim Peeler at email@example.com.