On Sunday afternoon, the North Carolina women’s basketball team (15-10, 6-5) bounced back from a loss to rival Duke with a hard-fought 70-64 road victory against Clemson (15-9, 6-5).
Before the game began, the Tar Heels sat right below Clemson in the ACC standings. After just a couple minutes of action, it was clear that both teams were going to be in for a competitive game.
The Tigers got off to a hot start, shooting over 57% from deep in the first half. On the occasion that Clemson missed a shot, the Tigers typically got a second look, as they pulled in nine offensive rebounds in the first half alone. That combination of excellent shooting and Clemson’s domination on the boards meant that the Tar Heels had to make some adjustments fast.
Despite a subpar performance in the first half – the team shot just 37.5 percent from the field, and turned it over 11 times – North Carolina came out of the locker room to start the second half only down by one. The Tar Heels seemed to decide that if they weren’t going to be able to outperform the Tigers on offense, then they were going to have to do so on the defensive end.
In the entire second half, UNC had only four turnovers compared to 12 by Clemson. The Tar Heels also fought for 10 offensive rebounds of their own in the second half. Taking care of the ball and closing the rebound gap helped North Carolina keep the game close until the team was able to pull away in the final minutes after a Clemson cold stretch, fueling a hard-fought ACC road win.
Who stood out?
Redshirt junior Stephanie Watts was on triple-double watch for UNC, finishing the game with 12 points, nine rebounds and seven assists. Watts stepped up big for the Tar Heels in the later stages of the game, with 10 of her points coming in the second half.
Redshirt senior Paris Kea also had a complete game for North Carolina. Kea tied guard Shayla Bennett for the team-high in scoring with 15 points while chipping in four points, four assists and a solid defensive effort.
Meanwhile, senior Danielle Edwards absolutely lit it up for the Tigers. The guard had 26 points for Clemson, shooting 5-6 from beyond the arc and nearly single-handedly costing the Tar Heels the win.
When was it decided?
Nobody could tell who would come out on top until the final minutes of this nail-biter. North Carolina regained the lead, 56-55, with just under six minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.
From that point on, Clemson went cold and failed to score in the final minute, failing to keep up with the scoring pace and allowing the Tar Heels to pull away as the game came to an end.
Why does it matter?
This win propels North Carolina to seventh in the ACC standings, with every team ahead of them being ranked in the AP top 25. It is also UNC’s fifth win in the last six games.
Between this win and victories over top-ten teams Notre Dame and NC State, the Tar Heels are making a statement that any team should fear a matchup with them in the ACC Tournament. More importantly, the Tar Heels have kept their NCAA Tournament hopes alive with the win, and will need to continue ripping off wins to qualify.
When do they play next?
Next, UNC will hit the road again for a matchup against Pittsburgh on Thursday at 7 p.m.
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