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The Daily Tar Heel

UNC women's basketball bounces back from Georgia Tech loss, tops rival No. 21 Duke

Madeline Crumpler - UNC WBBALL
Kennedy Todd-Williams (3) drives to the basket at the game against Duke in the Cameron Indoor Stadium on Thursday, Jan. 17, 2022. UNC won 78-62.

The North Carolina women’s basketball team (16-3, 6-3) stunned its rival, No. 21 Duke (13-5, 4-4), on in Cameron Indoor Stadium Thursday night with a 78-62 victory.

What happened?

Cameron Indoor was alive Thursday night, with stands filled with both shades of blue.

Although UNC got first possession off the tip, Duke got the first bucket off, followed quickly by a jumper from sophomore Alyssa Ustby and then consecutive layups from sophomore Kennedy Todd-Williams. The Blue Devils hit a 3-pointer, but the Tar Heels kept their momentum, with Ustby scoring an and-1. Duke regained the lead, 10-9, with just under half of the first quarter remaining, but UNC snatched it back with a 3-pointer from sophomore forward Alexandra Zelaya. 

The final minutes of the first quarter were fast-paced, with the Blue Devils making two consecutive layups and a jumper off a steal, followed by a jumper by Ustby. In the final five seconds of the quarter, graduate guard Carlie Littlefield converted a 3-pointer into a four-point play, giving UNC a 19-18 lead over Duke.

Sophomore Deja Kelly scored the two buckets off free throws and Zelaya nailed a jumper to start the second quarter. Just a minute later, Ustby passed up the court for a quick layup by Todd-Williams to put the Tar Heels up six. Not even one minute after that, Ustby ran the length of the court for her own fast-break layup. 

Duke scored its first bucket of the second quarter almost halfway through, but this only fueled a fiery 15-2 run from the Tar Heels, thanks to Ustby’s quick hands on defense and shooting prowess in the frontcourt. Sophomore Anya Poole converted a steal by freshman Destiny Adams late in the quarter and Todd-Williams sank a buzzer-beater to end the half 47-26. 

The Blue Devils scored the first two buckets of the second half, but Littlefield quickly answered with a layup. After a UNC timeout, Kelly sank a 3-pointer, followed immediately by a three on the opposite end. Littlefield scored from behind the arc off an offensive rebound by Todd-Williams, and shortly after, Ustby recorded her third steal and converted a fast-break a layup. Shortly after, Ustby buried a three and then a quick layup, followed by another layup from Todd-Williams to make the score 61-36.

Zelaya scored the Tar Heels’ first basket of the fourth quarter, after a slow start. Eva Hodgson grabbed a steal for a quick layup, and, after Duke responded with a jumper, Ustby scored for the Tar Heels. After trading points for several possessions, UNC still held a twenty point lead with under three minutes to go. The Tar Heels finished with a sound 78-62 win.

Who stood out? 

While UNC had a deep showing, with nine players putting up points, Ustby and Todd-Williams had stand-out performances. Ustby shot 60 percent and Todd-Williams 63.7 percent, and combined, they had 35 of the team’s 78 points. Ustby and Todd-Williams also led the team in rebounds, tallying six and seven, respectively.

When was it decided?

A game is rarely sealed in the first half. Thursday, though, UNC outscored Duke 28-8 in the second quarter alone, shooting 75 percent and tallying four steals. Ending the first half with a 21-point lead made for a promising finish for the Tar Heels, and they held a strong lead until the final buzzer.

Why does it matter?

After falling off the rankings following the loss to Georgia Tech on Sunday, the Tar Heels walked into Cameron Indoor not only looking for a rivalry win, but also a redemption win. With this strong performance under their belts, they’ll gain some momentum heading into their game against No. 3 ranked N.C. State.

When do they play next?

The Tar Heels will face another down-the-road rival on Sunday, Jan. 30 when they tip-off against N.C. State at 4 p.m.

@dthsports |

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