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Friday March 24th

Deja Kelly breaks out of slump in UNC's 47-point win over Miami

Sophomore guard Deja Kelly (25) fights for the ball at the game against Miami on Feb. 6 in Carmichael Arena. The Heels won 85-38.
Buy Photos Sophomore guard Deja Kelly (25) fights for the ball at the game against Miami on Feb. 6 in Carmichael Arena. The Heels won 85-38.

Over the course of a long basketball season, any player can fall into a slump.

For UNC sophomore guard Deja Kelly, such a slump began two weeks ago when she went shot 2-15 from the field in a win against Duke. Three days later, she was scoreless in a loss to N.C. State.

But as any great player would understand — slumps usually don't last forever. 

After scoring 12 points in a win over Wake Forest on Thursday, Kelly put together another impressive performance with a team-leading 18 points in the Tar Heels' dominant 85-38 victory at Miami on Sunday.

“It’s really a mental thing and I am not going to let one bad shooting night get to me because I know the ball will go in eventually,” Kelly said.

Against the Hurricanes, Kelly caught fire by going 4-4 from three in a two-minute stretch in the second quarter, when her confidence seemed to be at a new high.  

“Deja is such a baller and she’s someone that you don’t worry about,” head coach Courtney Banghart said.

In the team’s first game back in Carmichael Arena since losing to the Wolfpack last Sunday, the Tar Heels earned their largest win against an ACC opponent since beating Wake Forest by 49 in 2007.

The Tar Heels outrebounded Miami 53-34, a feat Banghart said they try to achieve each game. They also shot 95.2 percent from the free throw line and 44.4 percent overall compared to Miami’s 22.7.

Having a shooter's mentality seemed crucial for the Tar Heels in today’s game, as they played highly competitively, something that has become much more difficult against quality opponents. UNC outscored Miami 28-2 in the first quarter, led by sophomore forward Anya Poole's 10 points.

“We came out punching from the beginning and Anya did a really good job starting us off like that,” sophomore guard Kennedy Todd-Williams said. “When players are hot we always look for them in transition.”

Kelly’s ability to grow from her previous slump and put points up coupled well with Todd-Williams’ shooting prowess — she finished the game with a career-high 16 points, including an impressive buzzer beater at the end of the third that sent the Carmichael crowd into an uproar.

“It’s all coming to me now and I am definitely finding a way to contribute to the team because they trust me and that’s really big,” Todd-Williams said.

Banghart shadowed that sentiment when she highlighted Todd-Williams’ gifts as a basketball player.

“She keeps getting better and better and is a coach’s dream,” Banghart said. 

The dynamic between Kelly and Todd-Williams was on display on Sunday afternoon, with both players establishing themselves well on the offensive and defensive side.

In order to regain her momentum, Kelly has been working extra hard on her game by going back to the fundamentals such as focusing on the details and working on her shot from mid-range and three.

And on a historic afternoon for the team, she proved to her fans and herself that having a few off games is not a definitive moment in a player’s season nor is it a marker of inconsistency.

“It felt really good to finally see the ball go in the basket,” Kelly said.


@dthsports | 

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