The No. 18 North Carolina women’s basketball team (23-5, 13-5 ACC) dominated Duke (16-12, 7-11) on Saturday, 74-46, to finish the regular season in a sold-out crowd at Carmichael Arena.
After winning the jump, the Blue Devils sank an early three off an offensive rebound. UNC sophomore Kennedy Todd-Williams responded with a bucket immediately followed by a layup from graduate student Carlie Littlefield. Sophomore Anya Poole got an easy basket after an offensive rebound, and sophomore Alyssa Ustby sank a free throw to continue the Tar Heels’ run. Not even halfway into the first quarter, UNC led Duke 13-3.
Duke had a steal followed by a UNC turnover, but did not convert. The Blue Devils scored a 3-pointer with just under three minutes to go in the quarter to put an end to UNC’s 14-0 run. The Blue Devils followed with a quick layup, but a jumper by sophomore Deja Kelly maintained a solid 16-8 lead for the Tar Heels to end the quarter.
Ustby scored a quick bucket to open the second quarter, but Duke answered with a basket on the opposite end, and another layup shortly after, decreasing UNC’s lead to just six. A 3-pointer on Duke’s end closed the gap even more, but Todd-Williams responded with a three to maintain a comfortable lead.
With three and a half minutes remaining in the half, Ustby scored a contended layup followed immediately by a layup by Todd-Williams. Littlefield then had a four-point play to bring UNC’s lead to 30-16. Junior Malu Tshitenge came off the bench and scored for the Tar Heels, and Ustby scored again, bringing the team's lead to 34-16 at halftime.
Both teams were missing a lot of shots. The Tar Heels were shooting just 34 percent from the field and 13 percent from behind the arc, and Duke was shooting just 26 percent and 14 percent from the arc. But, the Tar Heels seemed to want it more. They snagged 14 offensive rebounds in the first half alone, compared to Duke’s two.
Poole opened the second half with a wide-open layup, and Duke had one on their half shortly after. Ustby fired off a 3-pointer, and Todd-Williams sank another less than a minute later, giving the Tar Heels a 24-point lead. Duke scored to put an end to UNC’s 8-0 run, but Poole made consecutive layups to keep a 29-point lead.
Senior Jaelynn Murray came off the bench for the fourth quarter and sank three jumpers, which riled up the huge crowd that had come not only for the rivalry game, but for Senior Night, too. No matter how hard Duke tried to chip away at the lead, the Tar Heels were merciless with their shooting and defensive showing, en route to a 74-46 win.
Who stood out?
Four Tar Heels scored in double digits: Ustby and Poole led the team with 15 points each, and Todd-Williams and Littlefield tallied 14 and 10, respectively. Littlefield also recorded her first double-double, leading the team with 10 rebounds.
When was it decided?
The game was never really in question. The Tar Heels took the lead just over a minute into the game, and never let it out of sight. At the end of the third quarter, UNC led Duke by 30 points.
Why does it matter?
While a rivalry win is always notable, this game was a strong finishing point for UNC’s regular season. Saturday’s performance will put the Tar Heels in a good position as they look to clinch a win in the ACC tournament starting in early March.
When do they play next?
The Tar Heels will travel to Greensboro, N.C. to play in the ACC Women’s Basketball Championship taking place March 2-8.
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