In a physical match with 34 combined fouls, the No. 23 North Carolina women’s basketball team (19-4, 9-4 ACC) defeated Pittsburgh (11-12, 2-10 ACC), 64-54, at Carmichael Arena on Thursday night.
The Tar Heels scored first after sophomore forward Anya Poole found sophomore guard Alyssa Ustby cutting in for an easy layup. Ustby knocked down two free throws on the next possession, putting UNC up 4-0.
The Panthers responded with guard Jayla Everett finding forward Amber Brown for an easy pick-and-roll. UNC then went on a 6-0 run, starting with sophomore guard Deja Kelly whipping a pass to the corner on a fast break for a contested 3-pointer from sophomore guard Kennedy Todd-Williams. On the next possession, graduate guard Carlie Littlefield knocked down a trey from the right wing, extending the lead to 10-2 and forcing a timeout.
Immediately upon checking into the game, junior Eva Hodgson hit back to back threes, while Everett hit a 3-pointer and fast break layup. The first quarter ended with North Carolina up 18-7.
Pittsburgh began to apply more full court pressure in the second quarter, but it didn’t seem to faze North Carolina, as the team held a firm grip on its 11-point lead. Halfway through the second quarter, the score was still 24-13, courtesy of solid minutes from sophomore forward Alexandra Zelaya and first-year forward Destiny Adams. Zelaya and Adams’ hustle chipped in six bench points.
The aggressive Panther defense awarded free throws to Kelly, Todd-Williams and Hodgson, which extended the lead to 30-13. Everett hit her second three, to which Kelly responded with an off-foot, left-handed finger roll. More free throws from Kelly closed out the half, and the teams headed to the locker rooms with a halftime score of 34-18.
Brown and Littlefield traded layups to open up the second half, and Ustby hit a turnaround mid-range shortly after. A few possessions later, Ustby posted up and scored a left-handed scoop. Ustby continued to prove to be a tough defensive matchup for the undersized Panthers, weaving her way into an open stop-and-pop mid-range.
Kelly hit her first 3-pointer of the game from the corner off an Ustyby assist. After only making one field goal on seven attempts in the first half, Kelly scored another basket, this time freezing her defender for a jumper from the left elbow.