CHAPEL HILL, N.C.-As you walk on to the floor at the Dean E. Smith Center, your eyes are immediately drawn to the ceiling, where banners honoring almost 40 retired North Carolina legends hang.
And even if Michael Jordan’s or James Worthy’s jersey were removed, the arena is still intimidating for visitors, with it sea of Carolina blue-clad fans.
Tuesday night at 7 p.m., the GW women’s basketball team has the daunting task of taking on No.1 seed University North Carolina (28-3) in the second round of the NCAA Tournament at UNC’s Smith Center. The women’s squad usually plays home games at the smaller Carmichael Auditorium but is 4-0 at the Dean Dome, including a 97-62 blowout win over No. 16 seed Coppin State University Sunday.
“We are real excited about Carolina,” GW head coach Joe McKeown said. “We have a lot of respect for them but we like our approach right now and how we are playing.”
“I think North Carolina is very beatable,” freshman Kim Beck added. “I think it’s a tough match-up but if we do what we need to do, we can actually beat them. I think every team has its weaknesses, they may have less than others but we are playing really well right now. With our emotion and hear t I think we could beat anyone right now. ”
The Colonials (23-8) used an exhilarating second half effort run to defeat Mississippi 60-57 in the first round. If the Colonials hope to upset the Tar Heels they will have to play more of a complete game.
“If we let them get up by 10 points or more it’s going to be very tough to comeback,” senior Anna Montanana said.
Tuesday is the eight-year anniversary of the Colonials and Tar Heels last meeting. On March 22, 1997, GW knocked off North Carolina, which was a No.1 seed that year.
“There is a lot of pressure on North Carolina being a No.1 seed and playing at home,” McKeown said. “We are just going to be loose and free, relaxed and play hard. We are going to try to have some fun.”
Both teams are coming into the game on hot streaks, as the Colonials have won 9-of-10, while the Tar Heels have won 14 straight games. North Carolina has won 17 straight at home and is ranked No. 2 in the latest ESPN/USA Today poll.
The Tar Heels score in waves, averaging 80 points per game. GW averages 65 points per game. To advance, GW will need to stop Ivory Latta (17.2 points per game) and Erlana Larkins (15 points per game).
“They are tough match-ups for anyone,” McKeown said. “We are going to throw a lot of people at them.”
McKeown finished off Monday’s press conference by reflecting on his own squad’s success this season.
“I think this team is very hungry,” McKeown said. “This was the first time in 15 years we weren’t ranked in the top 20 at any point and I think people kind of forgot about us. Some years your team gives you a little bit more than everyone expected in September and October.”