The No. 19 North Carolina women’s basketball team (14-1, 4-1 ACC) took care of business in a 71-46 blowout of ACC opponent Virginia Tech (11-4, 3-1 ACC) at Carmichael Arena on Sunday evening.
The Tar Heels found themselves in a tightly contested, back and forth battle in the first quarter with offensive struggles for both teams — credit to their defensive efforts.
First quarter play was intense and scrappy as UNC got its hands on the ball, forcing multiple turnovers and out-hustling the Hokies to loose balls. Halfway through the period, graduate guard Carlie Littlefield found herself on the hardwood after a steal, resulting in a foul and two free-throws for the Tar Heels in the next possession.
From that point, UNC began to run away with the game.
Redshirt junior guard Eva Hodgson and sophomore guard Deja Kelly both hit 3-pointers to further strengthen the Tar Heels’ lead, as Kelly’s three began a 5-0 run — giving UNC its largest lead at the end of the first quarter, 16-10.
The Tar Heels entered the second quarter with the same defensive focus — this time capitalizing on the fastbreak opportunities created by steals.
Kelly connected from deep after a steal by sophomore guard Alyssa Ustby at the six-minute mark, and two minutes later, a takeaway by Kelly resulted in a lay-up for Hodgson, putting UNC up by 17.
UNC entered the second half with a 35-17 lead and picked up right where they left off in the first.
Once again it was the defensive dominance from both the guards and the bigs that created easy offense for the Tar Heels.
The lead reached 22 after a block by sophomore forward Anya Poole led to a fastbreak find to Ustby for a layup.
Points continued to pile on for UNC after it went on an 8-0 run with three minutes to go in the third. Hodgson hit two corner threes in the run — the second putting the lead at 30.
The Tar Heels maintained their overall intensity to keep the game out of reach in the fourth quarter as they continued to hound the Hokies and run the court for easy points.
UNC came out victorious, earning its fourth ACC win.
Who stood out?
Hodgson had herself a night as she scored a season-high 19 points while shooting lights-out from three with an 80 percent 3-point percentage. Her four deep shots made was also a season-high, beating her previous best of three triples against Syracuse.
Kelly and Ustby also poured in significant contributions, as Kelly posted a double-double of 15 rebounds and 10 assists.
Ustby was a layup machine as she pitched in 13 points.
When was it decided?
The game was in the Tar Heels’ control by the beginning of the second quarter. After leaving some points on the floor from missed layups created by turnovers, UNC began to put the easy ones in the basket along with finding an offensive groove beyond the paint.
The Tar Heels’ defensive effort in the second quarter held the Hokies to only two field goals made, making a lead for UNC that was insurmountable by halftime.
Why does it matter?
This victory was a great bounce back from a tough loss against rival No. 5 N.C. State in the Tar Heels’ previous match-up.
Sunday’s blow-out was a reminder that UNC is still a very good basketball team with superb offensive and defensive talent as Virginia Tech was not a push-over opponent considering their recent play. The Hokies have impressive wins, including a rout of No. 17 Duke, and they were unbeaten in the ACC until facing UNC.
After a win like this, it’s clear that the Tar Heels are still worthy of being in the top 25.
When do they play next?
The Tar Heels will travel to South Bend, Ind. to face Notre Dame on Sunday, Jan. 16 at 1 p.m.
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