On Wednesday, the No. 8 North Carolina women’s basketball team led from nearly wire to wire in a 64-42 win over UNC Wilmington at Carmichael Arena in Chapel Hill.
The Tar Heels controlled the tip, and junior guard Kennedy Todd-Williams nailed a three from the top of the key in the first possession of the game. Four different Tar Heels scored in the opening four minutes of the game: a layup by junior forward Anya Poole, a three from junior guard Deja Kelly and a turnaround mid-range jumper from junior Alyssa Ustby.
The Seahawks answered the call each time the Tar Heels scored. UNCW crashed the offensive glass early, scoring six of its first nine points in the paint. The Tar Heels headed into the under-5 timeout of the first quarter with a 10-9 advantage.
UNCW’s defensive energy helped keep the game within reach early. However, a from-behind block from sophomore Destiny Adams helped stop a three-point attempt from UNCW that would have tied the game. Todd-Williams netted her second three of the game as time expired in the first quarter. The six-point swing gave the Tar Heels an 18-12 advantage to close the first.
Three minutes into the second quarter, back-to-back lay-ins from Adams and senior Eva Hodgson forced a UNCW timeout and boosted North Carolina’s lead to double-digits for the first time in the contest.
Ustby’s drives proved difficult to defend for the Seahawks in the first half, and her put-back layup with just three seconds left in the half extended the Tar Heel lead to 13 at the break as they led 35-22. Ustby was the first player in the game to reach double-figure scoring.
Capitalizing off of UNCW’s turnovers with quick fast break pushes is what got the Tar Heels rolling toward the end of the first half. The Seahawks committed nine first-half turnovers, which led to 10 fastbreak points for the Tar Heels.
The Tar Heels found success attacking the paint in the third quarter. Kelly and Todd-Williams each joined Ustby in double-figures as North Carolina grew its lead to 21 with six minutes remaining in the third. The Seahawks never waved the white flag though. They narrowed the Tar Heels lead to 16 by the end of the third quarter, 53-37.
Both teams struggled to score down the stretch in the fourth quarter with North Carolina scoring just nine 11 fourth-quarter points, and the Seahawks scoring just five. The Tar Heels claimed a 64-42 victory over the Seahawks to advance to 7-1.
Who stood out?
Ustby was stellar all night long. Her interior dominance was the highlight of a Tar Heel offense that got most of its work done inside Wednesday night. Her 16 points on 8-10 shooting were a game-high, and she added on 10 rebounds to earn a double-double — her third of the season.
Kelly found herself at the foul line more than any other player Wednesday. Despite being a 75 percent free throw shooter coming into the night, she shot just 1-5 from the charity strike. North Carolina continued its season-long struggle at the line as it shot just 61 percent from the line.
Adams was a defensive spark plug for the Tar Heels, energizing the Tar Heels with timely blocks and defensive stops. Her energy was paramount for a Tar Heel defense that ultimately fueled its victory.
When was it decided?
The Tar Heels created separation toward the end of the second quarter by capitalizing off of UNCW turnovers, building a 13-point lead at the half. The Tar Heels were able to maintain control in the second half, growing its lead to as much as 21.
Why does it matter?
Following two big wins over top-25 opponents at the Phil Knight Invitational over Thanksgiving weekend, the Tar Heels traveled to Bloomington, Ind., where they lost to now-ranked No. 4 Indiana 87-63 last Thursday, Dec. 1.
The win over UNCW demonstrated that the Tar Heels could respond to adversity and follow up a tough loss with stellar play and a determined win.
When do they play next?
Wednesday’s game was the first of a three-game home stretch for the Tar Heels who will next play Wofford this Sunday, Dec. 11 at 1 p.m. in Carmichael Arena.
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