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Friday May 20th

Deja Kelly and Kennedy Todd-Williams lift No. 20 UNC women's basketball to win over Virginia

Sophomore guard and leading scorer of the night Deja Kelly (25) makes a free-throw against UVA  Friday, Jan. 20, 2022, in Carmichael Arena. UNC won 61-52, and Kelly finished the night as the leading scorer with 18 points.
Buy Photos Sophomore guard and leading scorer of the night Deja Kelly (25) makes a free-throw against UVA Friday, Jan. 20, 2022, in Carmichael Arena. UNC won 61-52, and Kelly finished the night as the leading scorer with 18 points.

Following a road loss against Notre Dame, the No. 20 North Carolina women’s basketball team responded with a 61-52 victory against Virginia in Carmichael Arena on Thursday.

A glimpse of the team’s early-season dominance was on display against the Cavaliers —something that wasn't on display at the team's previous games against ranked opponents on the road. 

Despite solid play from the Tar Heels on both sides of the ball, the game hung in the balance late as the Cavaliers gained momentum in the final quarter. North Carolina was able to stave off its opponent, however, by reclaiming some of the rhythm the team displayed earlier in the game. 

The energy in Carmichael matched well how the team was playing, and the Tar Heels were paced by the sophomore guard tandem of Kennedy Todd-Williams and Deja Kelly  — whose on-court dynamic and communication skills were too much for the Cavaliers to overcome. 

“Toddy is a great player on both sides of the ball," Kelly said. "She works really well in transition and defensively she’s the best we've got."  

Kelly and Todd-Williams combined for 33 points  — 18 and 15, respectively —  to lead the team in scoring. The teammates played in unison, depending on each other and working together to create points. 

“She’s my sis, I love her three-point plays and I always look for her in transition,” Todd-Williams said. “I can count on her and she counts on me.” 

Although the Tar Heels mustered enough points to overcome the Cavaliers, their gameplay was still relatively sloppy, head coach Courtney Banghart said. The team only shot 32 percent from the field and 22 percent from deep, and was also outrebounded 47-44.

“We did not play as well tonight because there was careless effort on the glass,” Banghart said. 

While the Tar Heels have had a successful season thus far — shown in their 15-2 record —  the ACC games have been a bit more challenging. Their only losses have come against now No. 4 N.C. State and No. 19 Notre Dame, and will face their third ranked conference opponent this Sunday when they travel to Atlanta to face No. 18 Georgia Tech.

Banghart said the starters did not play their best game against Virginia, and the players must decide how they want to execute their games with accountability.

“That’s our motivation,” Kelly said. “We just need to continue to stay connected and locked in.”

Going into Sunday’s game, Kelly said that Georgia Tech's spot in the top 25 will only motivate her to play a more consistent game. The Virginia matchup showed the team still has things to clean up, especially after giving up 20 offensive rebounds.

Regardless of mistakes that were made, Banghart is optimistic about the team’s upcoming ACC games which include No. 21 Duke, and another matchup with N.C. State. 

“I like prepping for ranking teams," Banghart said. "It’s a formidable challenge — a challenge we take one game at a time,” she said. 

With just over a month left in the season, the team must continue to fight with the same skill, intensity and passion they displayed during their undefeated start. The Tar Heels have harder competition on the road, and while a win is a win, they must overpower their opponents to prove their dominance can carry over to ACC play.

“I know we can play better,” Todd-Williams said.  

@NiaSattBrown

@DTHSports | sports@dailytarheel.com

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