The No. 20 North Carolina women’s basketball team (15-2, 5-2 ACC) defeated Virginia (3-12, 0-5 ACC), 61-52, at Carmichael Arena on Thursday night.
Sophomore guard Deja Kelly scored the first six points for the Tar Heels, including a 4-point play where she was fouled on a 3-point shot from the right wing. Virginia kept the game close throughout the first quarter, primarily finding scoring opportunities in the paint and capitalizing off of UNC’s six turnovers. Kelly answered with another 3-pointer and a mid-range jumper, scoring 11 of the Tar Heels’ 20 first-quarter points. Twelve of the Cavaliers’ 16 first-quarter points were in the paint.
North Carolina began to outpace Virginia in the second quarter, going on a 14-2 run over a three-minute stretch. With starters Kelly and graduate guard Carlie Littlefield resting on the bench, the Tar Heels demonstrated their depth with 3-pointers from sophomore guard Kennedy Todd-Williams and first-year guard Morasha Wiggins, who banked it in from the right wing.
Todd-Williams continued to lead North Carolina’s scoring effort, finishing with seven points in the second quarter. Virginia maintained its robust paint protection in the second quarter, allowing only two UNC points in the paint. Additionally, the Cavaliers had grabbed 24 rebounds to the Tar Heels’ 20 by halftime.
The Tar Heels didn’t slow down in the third quarter. Kelly curled around the right elbow for a quick jumper, but was blocked by Virginia forward Eleah Parker. On the same possession, Kelly surveyed the floor at the top of the key, then blew by her defender for a left hand layup to score North Carolina’s first points for the second half.
After missing its first eight 3-point attempts, Virginia hit its first shot from behind the arc when guard Amandine Toi knocked a trey down from the right wing three minutes into the third quarter. After Virginia forward London Clarkson blocked first-year forward Destiny Adams’ floater attempt, Toi raced to the other end for a fastbreak layup.
Shortly after the media timeout, junior guard Eva Hodgson drew two defenders by driving into the right lane. Hodgson appeared to have been attempting a layup but swung it to junior forward Malu Tshitenge at the last moment for an easy layup.
A controversial backcourt violation gave the Cavaliers the ball, drawing boos from Carmichael Arena’s student section. On the same possession, Kelly stole a post entry pass and took it coast to coast for a fastbreak layup. Todd-Williams powered her way a few possessions later to a left-hand layup, and Hodgson found Tshitenge once again in a similar fashion as before. Hodgson drew two Cavaliers and made a textbook bounce pass for another uncontested layup, this time at the buzzer.
Toi hit another 3-pointer to open up the fourth quarter, and made a left-handed scoop layup on the next possession. A jumper by Virginia guard Kaydan Lawson cut the UNC lead to nine points.
Hodgson ended the two-minute scoring drought with a 3-point play, faking out her defender and driving in for a right handed floater off the left backboard. The teams continued to trade baskets, and the Cavaliers gradually began to chip at the deficit. With three minutes left to play and UNC up by seven, Littlefield hit a corner 3-point dagger. A traveling violation on the block by Parker gave UNC the ball back with a little over 80 seconds to play and an eight-point lead.
The Cavaliers battled until the final buzzer sounded, cutting the deficit to six points with 42 seconds left. Virginia was forced to foul Kelly twice. Kelly, an 85.7 percent free throw shooter, knocked down three of her four shots, and another Virginia turnover sealed the deal.
Who stood out?
Kelly led the offense with 18 points, and Hodgson and sophomore guard Alyssa Ustby combined for seven assists. Todd-Williams scored a career-high 15 points and grabbed six rebounds.
On the defensive end, Kelly and Ustby each had four steals. Tshitenge had a team high three blocks.
When was it decided?
Although the Cavaliers began to find their offensive rhythm in the fourth quarter, the Tar Heels built too large of a lead in the second quarter with their scoring runs. Additionally, Virginia’s lack of range hindered them from keeping up with the fast-paced North Carolina offense, as the Cavaliers shot 2-25 from deep — an eight percent clip.
Why does it matter?
North Carolina remains undefeated in Carmichael Arena this season, extending its home win streak to nine games. However, its 19 turnovers almost matched Virginia’s 20, a team that hasn’t won any conference games.
Moreover, the Virginia defense gave North Carolina’s high scoring offense trouble at several moments in the game, forcing turnovers and holding them to 61 points. The Tar Heels rank second in the ACC in scoring, averaging 78.8 points per game.
When do they play next?
UNC will travel to Atlanta this weekend to face Georgia Tech on Sunday, Jan. 23. Tip-off is at noon.
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