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Monday August 8th

UNC women's basketball fall, 72-45, against N.C. State in first test of the season

Sophomore guard Deja Kelly (25) shoots the ball in a game against Alabama State in Carmichael Arena, on Dec 21, 2021.
Buy Photos Sophomore guard Deja Kelly (25) shoots the ball in a game against Alabama State in Carmichael Arena, on Dec 21, 2021.

Coming into Thursday’s game against No. 5 N.C. State, the No. 19 North Carolina held its place as one of three undefeated teams in Division I women’s basketball with a perfect 13-0 record.

No other team in the ACC held a place on that list, not even the highly-ranked Wolfpack, last season’s conference tournament champions.

After its impressive start to the season, Thursday’s game was UNC's first against a ranked opponent. And it did not turn out well, as the team fell 72-45 on the road.

A team that came in with an average scoring margin of 32.3 points per game never led during the game. A team that out-rebounded its opponent by an average of 12.8 boards a night lost the battle 53-40. All around, it was a team that seemed to be dysfunctional against the Wolfpack.

It was unlike any game the team had played so far in the season, though according to head coach Courtney Banghart, the moment wasn’t too big for the team.

To Banghart, the outcome of Thursday’s game was less of the opponent’s performance and more about the one of her squad.

“I got a pretty good read on them. I don’t think they were nervous,” she said. “I think when the going got tough, they backed down a little bit. We hadn’t done that before.”

Sophomore guard Deja Kelly produced the vast majority of the scoring for UNC, finishing with a game-high 21 points. Her first half scoring kept the team alive for a bit until the end of the first half, with the team trailing by 17. For most of the game, there was little scoring from the other players and the margin grew wider and wider.

The 72 points the team allowed was not the most it gave up in the previous 13 games, but it did exceed the 50.8 opposing scoring average it held coming in. The team fell behind early and could not outgun its rival.

“I wasn’t really surprised at how hard they were playing, how connected they were playing,” Kelly said. “I knew that in order for us to compete with them, we had to be connected as well and I don’t think we were — offensively or defensively.”

The offense never got in rhythm, unlike its previous games in the long winning streak.

“I was surprised by that,” Banghart said. “When we called a set, the pace in which we did things tonight was really not good enough. That sounds like attention to detail, but it’s really not. It’s execution.”

The Tar Heels struggled inside for most of the game. At the end of the first half, the team made four of its nine three-pointers, but just five of its 23 shots from inside the arc. For the game, the team shot just 15-65 from the floor — not an ideal number.

Sophomore guard Alyssa Ustby, like her coach, felt it was not the Wolfpack’s strategy that hindered the Tar Heels.

“I think we just weren’t sharp on the offensive end,” Ustby said. “And that eventually cost us because we couldn’t keep up with them on the points.”

UNC’s next scheduled top-25 opponent is a road game against No. 20 Notre Dame on Jan. 16. The Tar Heels have a total of five ranked opponents remaining in their schedule, including another matchup against the Wolfpack.

Moving forward as a ranked team themselves, the Tar Heels now have the chance to regain some of the things that gave their previously perfect 13-0 start.

“This was probably the best test we got all season,” Kelly said. “I think this is our first test of adversity and for us to lock in and move on and learn from this game, I think, is really important for us to stay connected like we have been all throughout the beginning of the season.”

@jerem11ah

@dthsports | sports@dailytarheel.com

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