The No. 8 North Carolina women’s basketball team (6-0) picked up its second ranked win of the season over the No. 5 Iowa State Cyclones (5-1) with a final score of 73-64 to win the Phil Knight Invitational.
The first quarter started with an offensive rut for both teams, as a three-minute scoring drought ensued after Iowa State’s first field goal of the game. The first quarter was fairly competitive as the Tar Heels played with grit and defensive pressure. However, the first quarter ended with a score of 17-11 favoring the Cyclones. Redshirt senior guard Eva Hodgson and junior forward Alyssa Ustby had all 11 points for North Carolina in the quarter.
The second quarter heavily favored Iowa State. The Cyclones’ dominant senior forward Stephanie Soares opened up the scoring with an easy layup off a missed pick and roll. The Tar Heels could not get in an offensive rhythm and went the first four minutes without a field goal, giving Iowa State the opportunity to go on a 9-0 run. Missed layups and in-and-out jump shots plagued North Carolina, and they finished the second quarter with only two successful field goal attempts. The stagnant offense sent the Tar Heels to the locker room trailing 35-22, with Hodgson, Ustby and junior guard Deja Kelly accounting for all of North Carolina’s points.
The third quarter was noticeably much more evenly matched. The Tar Heels shot significantly better in the period, and cut the Cyclones’ lead to single digits with just over a minute to play in the quarter off of two free throws from a fouled three-point attempt by Kelly. The momentum shifted in North Carolina’s direction this quarter. Their shots began to fall and they began to apply more defensive pressure down low to the Cyclones. UNC shot 67 percent from the field and 50 percent from behind the arc compared to 50 percent and 44 percent from Iowa State, respectively. The Tar Heels ended the quarter with a single-digit deficit, trailing 53-45.
North Carolina came out swinging in the final quarter. They cut their 8-point deficit to three in the first two minutes off of a pull-up jumper from junior guard Kennedy Todd-Williams and a three-pointer from Hodgson. Kelly tied the game off a steal from Hodgson, and Todd-Williams hit a pull-up jumper the next possession to give the Tar Heels their first lead of the game. Iowa State was not allowed any field goals in the first five minutes of the final period, and North Carolina did not take their foot off the gas. A late push by the Cyclones was handled by the Tar Heels and the comeback push proved successful once again.
Who stood out?
Kelly had a season-high 29 points along with eight rebounds and four assists. Todd-Williams was huge for the Tar Heels in the second half, accounting for 17 points without missing a shot from the field. The Tar Heels’ resiliency was huge, as well as their 3-point shooting that allowed them to control the fourth quarter. Redshirt first-year Teonni Key was a huge defensive presence for North Carolina and came up with three blocks.
When was it decided?
The Cyclones dominated the entirety of the first half. As seen in their game against Oregon in the semifinals, the Tar Heels love to play from behind. The Tar Heels' cohesion in the third quarter and run in the early minutes of the fourth quarter allowed them to take the lead and put them in a great position to close out the game. However, a late push by the Cyclones created a tied game with 56 seconds to play. Clutch free throws from the Tar Heels down the stretch kept UNC alive and led the team to its Phil Knight Invitational Championship victory.
Why does it matter?
This is the Tar Heels’ second victory over a ranked opponent this season. They have demonstrated that they are a high-caliber team who can be competitive against heavyweight opponents. This is a great sign if they hope to make a run in the ACC this season. With many more ranked matchups on the horizon, North Carolina has proven that they can not be counted out; even if they trail by double digits for most of the game.
When do they play next?
The Tar Heels will travel to Bloomington, Ind. to take on the Indiana Hoosiers in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge on Thursday at 6 p.m.
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