Last week, the No. 23 North Carolina women’s basketball found itself discouraged by a tough home loss — its first of the season — to rival No. 3 N.C. State. The team stayed focused, picking up a road win Thursday at Wake Forest, 78-59, to give head coach Courtney Banghart her 300th career win as head coach.
But at Carmichael Arena Sunday, the Tar Heels soared out of the gates against ACC competitor, Miami. They held Miami to score just two points during the first quarter, leading 28-2. Ultimately, they outscored the Hurricanes by 14 in the second quarter — never looking back from there.
The 85-38 victory against Miami, who is 12-9 overall and 5-6 in the ACC, was just another step in the already impressive season for the 18-4 UNC women’s basketball team. This high-scoring game put the Tar Heels at an explosive 81.5 point average over the past two games.
This Thursday, the Tar Heels face another ACC foe: the 11-11 Pittsburgh Panthers at 6 p.m. in Carmichael Arena.
Last season, UNC played Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania, winning 81-72. This year, Pittsburgh holds an even .500 record with early wins against Northwestern, Rutgers and Wake Forest.
The Panthers' most recent victory came at Clemson where they won in overtime, though they have been struggling with a 1-4 record the past five games. They have not fared well to ACC opponents, losing 54-39 to Duke at home on Thursday.
The Pittsburgh offense has been cold, failing to hit many shots against Duke. So, UNC will have to look out for its strong defense. Pittsburgh is one of only four teams in the nation to hold every opponent to 45 percent or less shooting this season.
Keeping this in mind, a solid offensive effort will be the first step to victory for the Tar Heels. Sophomore guard Deja Kelly went cold last weekend, scoring zero points in her 22 minutes played against N.C. State.
Fortunately, for North Carolina through, Kelly bounced back with solid back-to-back offensive performances, putting up 12 points against Wake Forest and lead the team in scoring with 18 points against Miami. She had a more efficient showing Sunday than at Wake Forest, shooting 6-15 from the field and 4-9 from 3-point range.
Sophomore guards Alyssa Ustby and Kennedy Todd-Williams are two more players to watch for offensively. Ustby scored her ninth double-double of the season on Sunday afternoon, hitting 11 points and 10 rebounds. Todd-Williams was the second-leading scorer with 16, also adding five rebounds on the game.
As UNC women’s basketball looks ahead, the team will travel to play Virginia Tech next Sunday before its big matchup against No. 3 Louisville on Feb. 17 in Carmichael Arena. It is important that the team stays focused to finish the season strong these upcoming weeks.
After Louisville, they will take on three more ACC opponents — including Duke — before setting their sights on the ACC and NCAA tournaments.
Despite a Pittsburgh team known for its strong defense, UNC must be consistent on both sides of the ball to come out victorious. In fact, UNC has held all but three opponents to less than 40 percent field goal shooting this season.
Pittsburgh's shaky hot-and-cold offense should be no threat to a North Carolina team that has only lost one game at home all season.
@dthsports | email@example.com
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