The North Carolina women's basketball team (6-2, 1-2 ACC) faced the previously undefeated No. 18 Syracuse Orange (4-1, 1-1 ACC) in Chapel Hill on Thursday. UNC upset the Orange, 92-68, for the Tar Heels’ first ACC win of the season.
The Tar Heels came storming out of the gate, racing to a 14-3 lead just under 5 minutes into the first quarter, and a 21-9 lead by the end of the opening frame. First-year guard Deja Kelly adeptly handled an aggressive Orange defense, dealing out several early assists and scoring 13 points in the first half. Senior center Janelle Bailey also started off quickly, scoring UNC’s first 6 points despite a significant height disadvantage with the Orange’s 6-foot-7 star center, Kamilla Cardoso.
Bailey, first-year Anya Poole, and sophomore Malu Tshitenge were impressive on the defensive end, forcing the Orange to battle for every bucket. Poole led the Tar Heels with 10 rebounds in the first half. A symptom of this intensity was foul trouble, which plagued the Tar Heels in the first half. Bailey and first-year Alyssa Ustby picked up two fouls early in the first half, forcing both to the bench. Ustby, making the first start of her young career, also hit two three-pointers in the first half.
Throughout the game, Syracuse employed an aggressive defensive approach, including a full-court press at times. Graduate transfer Petra Holešínská took advantage of this defense, showing off her excellent outside shot with 12 first half points and 21 for the game.
In the second quarter, the Orange improved on offense, scoring 23 points. The Tar Heels, though, continued their offensive prowess, leading Syracuse 45-32 at halftime.
UNC continued its strong offensive display in the third quarter, led by Bailey’s 11 points. Kelly also continued her strong game with 4 points and a pair of assists. Meanwhile, Syracuse couldn’t continue its second quarter offensive output, following its 23 point output in the second with a 15 point third quarter in which they missed five of eight free throw attempts. The Tar Heels led the Orange 69-47 at the end of the third frame.
UNC held their wide lead throughout the fourth quarter, ending the game with a 92-68 victory.
Who stood out?
Kelly and Bailey led the Tar Heels throughout the game, with the first-year recording a career-high 22 points, 8 assists and 5 rebounds and the senior recording a season-high 25 points and eight rebounds. Kelly led the team, playing 38 of 40 minutes. Holešínská was also impressive, especially on the offensive end, scoring 21 points.
When was it decided?
While the Tar Heels led this game by double-digits from almost start to finish, the game still felt close until the end of the third quarter. At that point, with a 22-point Tar Heel lead, the result seemed to be decided.
Why does it matter?
The Tar Heels played much better than their first two ACC games, picking up their first conference win. Kelly is emerging as a star for the Tar Heels, and will look to continue this high quality play over the rest of the season. North Carolina's young and experienced players are beginning to mesh, with Bailey, Kelly and Holešínská all making a major impact on the final score.
When do they play next?
The Tar Heels will play at home against Wake Forest on Sunday at 1:00 p.m.
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