While many UNC fans spent Sunday dealing with the hangover that typically accompanies a victory over Duke in men's basketball, the women’s team added another win in the Triangle rivalries with its 76-69 upset victory against No. 4 N.C. State.
Coming off of a three-game losing streak, the team was hoping that the extra momentum of playing a nearby rival would give them the energy to bring home a victory.
“We figure it out when it comes to State,” graduate guard Stephanie Watts said. “We always seem to bring our A-game. We consider our main rivals Duke, but State down the road, we wanna beat them, we wanna show we are the team in Carolina, so we told the team about that. No matter how the season goes, we figure out a way to pull it out against State.”
And that sentiment rings true in recent history, with Sunday's win marking the third consecutive year that UNC has upset N.C. State.
After shooting 27.5 percent from the field and 19.4 percent from behind the arc against Florida State on Thursday, the Tar Heels found their stroke against N.C. State, shooting 40.6 percent from the field and 42.3 percent from the 3-point line.
“Before the Notre Dame game that we won a couple weeks ago, we told them, ‘We’ve built a lot of houses, now we gotta put the lights in it, so we gotta start making shots,’” head coach Courtney Banghart said.
First-year Alyssa Ustby took this to heart, tallying a career-high 20 points and making all four of her shots from behind the arc.
“Before the game, we were talking about how honorable it is to play in such a great rivalry, and we all really stepped up to the challenge together and got it done,” Ustby said. “Personally, I knew how important it was to the rest of my teammates, so I took this rivalry very seriously and just tried my best to help my team come out with a win.”
Ustby attributed her performance to the excitement of playing against a rival like N.C. State.
With 12 rebounds, Ustby also tallied a double-double. She led the team in both points and rebounds.
“What you see from that kid is not just on game day,” Banghart said. “That’s how she is all the time. She takes her craft very seriously, she’s thrilled to continue to get better and she’s a kid you guys are gonna love watching over the next four or five years.”
Ustby scored key shots, no doubt, but the win wouldn't have come without the collective effort of the whole team. In the third quarter, the Tar Heels lost a 12-point lead, sending them into the last quarter trailing by three points.
Watts said she and her teammates felt as though by that point, they had come too far to lose. Watts, Ustby and the rest of the Tar Heels wanted to dig deep and put in the extra effort to come out on top and continue the trend of stunning the Wolfpack.
“I was just so excited, proud of my team,” Watts said. “We’ve been working super hard, and it all came together for us. We know we’re a talented team and when we play together and move the ball and come out with energy, I think we can beat anybody, and we showed that tonight.”