For the second straight year, the North Carolina women's basketball team (12-3, 3-1 ACC) upset a top-10 ranked N.C. State team (14-1, 3-1 ACC), this time at home by a score of 66-60. Senior guard Shayla Bennett played all 40 minutes and led the way with 20 points, while senior guard Taylor Koenen added 14 and redshirt senior guard Madinah Muhammad had 13 in the upset win Thursday night.
The Tar Heels sank five of their seven triples in the first quarter, but shot just 6-15 from the field overall and trailed 23-17 at the end of ten minutes. The No. 9 Wolfpack outscored UNC 15-11 in second quarter, and by halftime had made eight treys of their own and scored the last seven points on their way to a 38-28 lead at the break.
With 5:10 left in the third quarter, the Tar Heels found themselves down by 12 after an N.C. State layup. They responded with a furious rally, keyed by buckets from Bennett and Koenen along with some lockdown defense, to tie the game entering the final period.
The fourth quarter was a test of wills, with UNC leading most of the way but only ever so slightly. A Bennett triple with 4:23 left stretched the lead out to seven, but the Wolfpack promptly answered with one of their own, then a layup to put the lead at two.
But the Tar Heels got two key buckets from Malu Tshitenge and Bennett—who was everywhere for UNC—to keep N.C. State at bay. Free throws from Muhammad and Koenen put the game to bed, and gave North Carolina a win over the Wolfpack, perhaps altering the former's trajectory for the rest of conference play.
Who stood out?
Bennett set the tone for UNC on both ends, recording two steals and a block and leading the Tar Heels on offense. N.C. State's Aislinn Konig, meanwhile, had a game-high 24 points on 8-11 shooting and nearly carried her team to the win.
For UNC, though, Koenen paced the team with 11 rebounds, and though Muhammad wasn't her usual self scoring-wise—she was just 3-11 from the floor and 1-6 from deep—it was her late free throws that iced the win.
When was it decided?
After Muhammad sank two at the charity stripe to go up six with 33 seconds to play, Konig sank a 3-pointer, her sixth of the game, with 26 seconds left. Rather than panic, though, Koenen and Muhammad combined to sink three of four at the line, and shortly after were joining their teammates in celebration on the court in Carmichael Arena.
Why does it matter?
Thursday night marked the biggest win for the Tar Heels in their first season under Courtney Banghart, who got a win in her first Triangle rivalry game. While UNC returned many of the same players from last year's 18-15 campaign, there seems to be a new energy and enthusiasm under Banghart, who replaced longtime coach Sylvia Hatchell and has so far helped steer North Carolina back to national prominence.
UNC's balanced attack was yet again on display agains the Wolfpack, as five players scored at least eight points.
When do they play next?
North Carolina will travel to Tallahassee for a 2 p.m. matchup with Florida State on Sunday and look to improve to 4-1 in the ACC.
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