HPU WBB: Curran Scores 28 in Season-Opening Loss at UNC

Site: Chapel Hill, N.C. (Carmichael Arena)
Score: North Carolina 95, High Point 70
Records: UNC 3-0 (0-0 ACC), HPU 0-1 (0-0 Big South)
Next HPU Event: Wednesday, December 2 – vs. Wofford (Millis Center, High Point, N.C.) 6 p.m.

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – High Point University’s women’s basketball opened its season in Chapel Hill, N.C. on Sunday (Nov. 29), falling to the University of North Carolina, 95-70. The game was much closer than the score indicated, with the Panthers leading for the majority of the game, all the way until three minutes remaining in the third quarter. Junior guard Skyler Curran exploded out of the gates for HPU, scoring 22 of her game-high 28 points in the opening 10 minutes.

“I was proud of how our team came out – we started the game strong,” head coach Chelsea Banbury said after the game. “We talked about not being afraid, stepping up and knocking down shots, and competing. North Carolina is a young team but a very good team and I think from the jump we came out and competed and made them a little nervous for a bit.”

Curran got out to as good of a start as she could have to open the season, scoring High Point’s first 17 points of the game. UNC struck first on an inside layup but Curran took over the quarter from there, scoring the next 17 from either team. She connected from deep three straight times and then picked up three the old-fashioned way, driving the lane to get the hoop and the harm, and sinking her free throw.

She hit from downtown two more times in a row before redshirt sophomore Jenson Edwards chimed in with a triple of her own to end Curran’s run. North Carolina scored again with just under four-and-a-half to go in the quarter to make it 20-4, the Tar Heels’ first points since the opening possession.

“Sky was unbelievable,” Banbury said of the Big South Preseason Player of the Year. “She came out and was ready to shoot. If she plays like that and she’s ready there won’t be many teams that will find it easy to guard her. Carolina’s best defense in the first half against her was her getting in foul trouble.”

Curran and Edwards each hit from deep once again late in the quarter, along with a triple from redshirt junior Danielle Deoul, and free throws from Curran and junior Jordan Edwards gave the Panthers a 32-14 lead after the opening 10 minutes.

North Carolina fought back in the second quarter, going on a 10-3 run in the first five minutes of the quarter to cut HPU’s lead to 11. Freshman Claire Wyatt found the net from beyond the arc for her first collegiate points to stop the run and extend the lead back to 14. The Heels kept coming and went on a 9-3 run to cut the lead to single-digits, with the Purple and White’s three points coming on a deep ball from redshirt junior Zaria Wright, who ended the UNC run shortly after with a pair of free throws. North Carolina finished the half with five unanswered points in the final minute, cutting High Point’s lead to 43-38 at the break.

Curran picked up a three-point play to start the third quarter and then graduate student Miya Bull found her stroke from deep and scored one on the inside to push the Panthers’ lead back up to seven, 53-46. The teams traded inside jumpers before Carolina stormed from behind, scoring 14 straight before Deoul scored in the paint to take the lead after three, 62-57.

High Point made it a one-point game again early in the fourth quarter, but once again UNC answered with a strong run, rattling off 16 in a row this time to open a commanding 79-63 lead halfway through the quarter. The Panthers never gave up, evidenced by a steal from freshman LaImani Simmons late in the game, fighting to the end in the 95-70 loss.

The 70 points conceded by North Carolina were the most the Tar Heels have given up all season and are the most UNC has allowed in a non-conference game since they lost 83-77 to Alabama last season.

HPU is back in action on Wednesday (Dec. 2) to host Wofford in the Millis Center at 6 p.m. That begins a six-game homestand for the Panthers, going through the end of the non-conference schedule and including the first two games of the conference schedule.