The North Carolina women’s basketball team (13-0, 3-0 ACC) defeated Clemson (6-8, 0-3 ACC) on Sunday, 81-62, giving the Tar Heels a third straight win in conference play.
The Tar Heels broke out to a 7-0 lead in the first two minutes of play, led by fast breaks from sophomore guards Alyssa Ustby and Kennedy Todd-Williams. As the initial jitters of the speedy start to the game subsided, the Tar Heel’s shooting prowess began to shine, as Carlie Littlefield and Deja Kelly made threes on back-to-back possessions.
At this point, with a 15-2 lead, the Clemson defense picked up. With their 2-3 zone, the Tigers were able to trap sophomore forward Anya Poole, and effectively terminate the dribble drive for the Tar Heels. At the end of the first quarter, UNC had converted on just two of its last 10 shots from the floor.
In the beginning of the second quarter, in spite of attempts from North Carolina to set up ball screens and open up lanes, Clemson applied heavy pressure in the paint and was able to cut down on UNC’s layups. Despite this, the Tar Heels shot the jumper effectively in the second quarter, outscoring the Tigers 24-11 with a 50 percent field goal percentage.
The Tigers finally got their offense together in the third quarter, and outscored the Tar Heels 23-22. They continued to cut into UNC’s lead in the fourth quarter, starting things off on a 7-0 run in the final period of play. Despite the Tigers’ best efforts, UNC was mostly able to sustain its 22-point lead the team built up in the first half, ultimately defeating Clemson by 19 points.
Who stood out?
Ustby immediately shot out of the gate for the Tar Heels, scoring the first basket of the game on a fast break before converting a steal for a breakaway layup on the very next possession.
Todd-Williams also stood out at the beginning of the game, leading the Tar Heel’s defensive efforts. By applying direct pressure on the point guard and making back-to-back layups, she helped build her team’s lead in the early minutes of the game.
The dynamic duo of guards Ustby and Todd-Williams were effective in setting the aggressive tone for the Tar Heels, and ended the first half with a combined 13 points, nine rebounds and five steals.
While Ustby and Todd-Williams got things started for North Carolina, sophomore guard Deja Kelly’s shooting kept the Tar Heels hot. Shooting 40 percent in the second quarter, Kelly was able to get the outside jumper going for UNC when Clemson turned up the pressure in the paint. Kelly’s early shooting success continued in the second half, and she ended the game with a career-high 31 points.
When was it decided?
By halftime, with a 22-point lead, the Tar Heels had a comfortable position for the rest of the game. UNC’s shooting success proved instrumental in building this lead, as they shot 45.5 percent from the field, compared to Clemson’s 31 percent.
While Clemson’s scoring improved in the second half, their struggles to control the ball continued. With 13 turnovers in the second half, the Tigers were not nearly as efficient as they needed to be to overcome the Tar Heels’ early lead.
Why does it matter?
With today’s win, the Tar Heels are now 3-0 in conference play and 13-0 overall. While their most contentious ACC matchup so far was against Boston College, today’s matchup showcased the Tar Heels’ flexibility in their four-out one-in motion offense. The Tar Heels are consistently effective in their fast-breaks, but today’s win showcased their ability in more set offensive possessions.
When do they play next?
The Tar Heels are on the road this week, slated for a top-25 matchup with No. 5 N.C. State on Thursday, Jan. 6.
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