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No. 18 UNC women's basketball looks to continue hot streak vs. bottom-ranked Virginia

Sophomore guard Deja Kelly shoots a free throw at the women's basketball game against Pittsburgh on Feb. 10, 2021 at Carmichael Arena in Chapel Hill. UNC won 64-54.

After winning five of its last six games, the UNC women’s basketball team looks to continue its hot streak when it faces Virginia in Charlottesville on Thursday.

After taking down No. 3 Louisville in thrilling fashion last week, the Tar Heels traveled to Tallahassee and took down the Florida State Seminoles 64-49. The Tar Heels now stand at No. 18 in the country with a 21-5 overall record and 11-5 conference record.

Sophomore guard Deja Kelly was especially impressive during this two-game stretch, averaging 22 points, four rebounds and three assists. Her play earned her ACC Player of the Week honors for the first time in her career on Monday.

Kelly looks to continue her impressive offensive performances against the Cavaliers, whom the Tar Heels beat 61-52 earlier this season.

Sitting at the bottom of the conference standings, Virginia is just 5-20 on the season. With that being said, the Tar Heels should not take them lightly, as the Cavaliers head into the game on a two-game win streak.

Here are three keys UNC needs to focus on to complete the season sweep over Virginia.

Control the boards

In recent games, UNC has done a great job winning the rebound battle, securing 10 more than Louisville and eight more than Florida State.

Alyssa Ustby and Anya Poole are the twin tandem who control the boards for North Carolina, combining for 38 rebounds in the past two games.

Rebounding the ball is the finishing touch to head coach Courtney Banghart’s stellar defense. Therefore, they must continue to rebound the ball effectively to help limit opposing teams to just one shot, as the Tar Heels rarely give up second-chance points.

Emphasize ball movement

UNC is at its best offensively when all five players get involved and touch the ball.

In the last two games, the Tar Heels have assisted on half of their made baskets, showing how important ball movement is for them to get open shots. 

A luxury for Banghart is that there is not just one primary ball handler who racks up assists. Redshirt junior guard Eva Hodgson has been a great playmaker off the bench, dishing out four assists in each of the past two games. 

Kelly had five assists against Florida State, and transfer point guard Carlie Littlefield had three against Louisville, showing that the Tar Heels don’t have one player dominate the ball — instead, they create open shots as a team.

Against Virginia, UNC needs to continue looking for kick-out threes and finds down low to bigs like Ustby and Poole to have a diversified offensive attack that the Cavaliers shouldn't be able to handle.

Ride the Kelly/Todd-Williams 1-2 punch

Kelly and fellow sophomore guard Kennedy Todd-Williams have been a dynamic duo in UNC’s offense, as their ability to score at all three phases on the court make them difficult to guard.

Todd-Williams continues to be a revelation for North Carolina, setting the bar higher after every game. Against Louisville she put up a new career high with 19 points, including the game-winning free throws with 16 seconds left.

Her counterpart is equally as impressive. Kelly scored 26 points on an efficient 9-15 shooting day against Florida State. She was especially key in the first half, scoring 14 of the team's 25 points, carrying the Tar Heels through a rough shooting half.

Most importantly, these two clutch performers can get Banghart a bucket in crunch time. Down the stretch against Louisville, Kelly and Todd-Williams scored 10 of UNC’s last 12 points, a valuable asset to have in postseason play.

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With just two games remaining in the regular season, UNC has the perfect momentum heading into the ACC Tournament with seeding implications on the line. However, the expectations are only growing, as Kelly and company have proven to be a serious threat time and time again.


@dthsports |