The No. 8 North Carolina women’s basketball team (5-0) beat No. 18 Oregon (4-1), 85-79, in a frenetic top-25 dogfight to cap off the first semifinal of the Phil Knight Invitational.
A normally reliable North Carolina defense collapsed countless times in the first half. Aiming to stop Oregon guards Te-Hina Paopao and Endyia Rogers from shooting 3-pointers off pick-and-rolls, UNC’s roll defenders stepped up high and relied on a third defender to cover Oregon bigs Grace VanSlooten and Phillipina Kyei.
This created open threes for Oregon players whom the help defenders left. Paopao benefited most, sinking three of Oregon’s five 3-pointers in the first half.
The Tar Heels kept roll defenders low on VanSlooten and Kyei in the second quarter, but that allowed Paopao and Rogers to sink pull-up 3-pointers.
Oregon’s fast transition attack created driving lanes to the basket, with 24 of Oregon’s 44 first-half points coming inside the paint.
To get back into the game, the normally egalitarian UNC offense prescribed a high dose of Deja Kelly pick-and-roll, the play providing a great share of the junior guard’s 12 first-half points and four assists.
For the third quarter, UNC adjusted how its guards would defend the ball handler in order to trap Oregon’s ball handlers without over-helping. Still, the Ducks drew help using VanSlooten and Kyei’s post scoring threat to attract Tar Heel defenders and create open shots.
No matter the defensive breakdowns, however, the Tar Heels willed their way to score.