CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The No. 6 North Carolina women’s basketball team (9-2) fell to No. 19 Michigan (11-1), 76-68, in the 2022 Jumpman Invitational at the Spectrum Center on Tuesday evening.
UNC junior forward Alyssa Ustby caught the tip and barreled down the lane for a quick left-handed layup, answered by an open layup by Michigan guard Laila Phelia. Junior guard Deja Kelly soloed a layup on the left baseline to put the Tar Heels up 4-2, but the Wolverines quickly responded with a 3-pointer from guard Leigha Brown.
The Tar Heels quickly found themselves in an uphill battle when deep heat check treys from Brown coupled with UNC forcing contested attempts late in the shot clock gave the Wolverines a 15-point lead. Michigan capped off an explosive 35-point quarter with another jumper from Brown.
The Brown show continued in the second quarter, as the fifth-year guard powered her way to back-to-back layups, including an and-one on a fastbreak. The Wolverine lead ballooned to 23 points when forward Alyssa Crockett knocked down consecutive 3-pointers.
North Carolina extended its defense into a full-court press and gained some momentum on both ends by forcing Michigan turnovers. Junior forward Anya Poole, redshirt senior guard Eva Hodgson and junior guard Kennedy Todd-Williams all scored on the inside, but by halftime, the Tar Heels had only trimmed the deficit to 17 points, trailing 32-49.
Brown scored an and-one layup right out of the break. Then, the Tar Heels swung the ball around until they found a wide-open Hodgson in the corner for a 3-pointer. With under seven minutes left in the third quarter, consecutive Wolverine baskets gave them a 55-35 lead and Michigan looked to put the game away early.
However, the Tar Heels held Michigan to zero field goals in the final 5:27 of the third quarter, chipping away with a Todd-Williams fastbreak layup and three free throws from Kelly. With Ustby in foul trouble, sophomore wing Destiny Adams gave North Carolina a much-needed spark, forcing two jump balls and snatching two steals. Heading into the fourth quarter, the Tar Heels trailed by just 12 points.
A Hodgson triple and Adams fastbreak layup helped cut the Wolverine to single digits, but Michigan kept finding ways to dribble out the clock and score on the inside. A technical foul on Brown awarded Kelly three shots from the charity stripe, but the guard only connected for one.
The Tar Heels couldn’t capitalize on any other scoring opportunities down the stretch, missing seven 3-pointers in eight minutes. Meanwhile, the Wolverines maintained control of the game, never allowing UNC to get within two possessions of equalizing the game.
Who stood out?
Brown torched UNC for 25 points, going 9-15 from the field including 3-7 from downtown. Phelia finished with 20 points, and forward Emily Kiser facilitated the offense, ending with six assists.
Adams contributed valuable minutes off the bench, connecting for 2-4 of her 3-pointers and tallying three steals. The sophomore finished with 12 points in 25 minutes of play.
When was it decided?
Although North Carolina was able to outplay Michigan in the second half, outscoring the Wolverines by nine points, it was the second quarter when Brown’s hot shooting and the Tar Heels’ errant offensive play constructed a deficit too great to overcome.
Why does it matter?
The Tar Heels appeared frazzled and slightly rusty from playing three non-conference, unranked opponents in the comfort of Carmichael Arena after they were routed by an elite Indiana team in the ACC/Big Ten challenge less than three weeks ago.
As North Carolina opens conference play against a stacked ACC field in the coming weeks, looking back on its lackluster performances against Big Ten teams Michigan and Indiana should provide valuable insight on points of improvement.
When do they play next?
The Tar Heels open up ACC play on Thursday, Dec. 29 in Carmichael Arena against Florida State. Tip-off is at 8:00 p.m.
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