The UNC men and women's basketball programs will have to wait for 10 wins yet again after the women's team lost its third straight game against No. 7 Virginia Tech, 65-68, on New Year's Day.
The Tar Heels made it a four-quarter fight with the No. 7 ranked Hokies in a game with 26 lead changes and 12 ties. Deja Kelly had an efficient night leading the team with 21 points on 9-17 shooting and three steals. Paulina Paris also came up huge late in the game, matching her career-high of 15 points.
Despite a spirited team effort, UNC couldn't get past foul trouble that started from the opening tip and lasted until the final whistle.
It started with Alyssa Ustby picking up her second foul with just over a minute left in the first quarter. She had been on a tear, scoring eight points from making all four of her shot attempts, and her production kept UNC in the game early on.
Ustby's second foul sent her to the bench until the third quarter, taking away the Tar Heels' hottest hand and one of their best two-way players.
Unfortunately for UNC, Kelly also had two fouls in the opening period, but head coach Courtney Banghart took the risk of keeping her in.
It turned out to be a wise decision as Kelly began to heat up, scoring nine in the second quarter and six in the third. She couldn't be stopped from inside the perimeter, especially with her pull-up mid-range jumpers.
The only thing that slowed her down was her own foul trouble that came in the pivotal fourth quarter.
Kelly picked up her fourth foul on a controversial call with just under seven minutes to go. The whistle blew as she made a jumper in the lane through some contact that would've put UNC up three. Instead of going to the line to complete a potential and-one, the officials hit Kelly with an offensive foul.
Banghart once again kept her veteran guard in the game, but in the final two-minute stretch, Kelly committed a charging foul that ended her night and left the Tar Heels without their best player.
After a clutch rebound and made free-throw by Anya Poole and a steal from Kennedy Todd-Williams, UNC managed to stay within striking distance and tie the game in the final minute.
And to no surprise, a foul decided the Tar Heels' fate in the final second.
Coming out of a 30-second timeout, UNC scrambled to keep Virginia Tech from scoring just before the final buzzer. The ball just so happened to land in the hands of the hottest player all night, the Hokies' Georgia Amoore, who finished with a game-high 24 points with six made threes.
In the game's final tick, Amoore missed the final shot from beyond the arc, but Todd-Williams hit her hand in the close-out, sending Amoore to the line with an opportunity to give the Hokies the lead.
She sank all three, and after the Tar Heels ensuing in-bound pass was batted away, UNC lost again.
Fouls in both the early minutes and the clutch moments had a significant impact on this game, and had some calls went the other way, there could've been a better outcome for Banghart's talented squad.
Instead of another top-25 win and evening their conference record, the Tar Heels fall to 9-4 and 0-2 in the ACC.