The Daily Tar Heel

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Saturday January 28th

Preview: Keys to No. 6 UNC women's basketball's matchup against No. 5 Indiana

UNC junior guard Kennedy Todd-Williams (3) shoots the ball during the women's basketball game against Iowa State at the Phill Knight Invitational in Portland, Ore. on Sunday, Nov. 27, 2022. UNC beat Iowa State 73-64.
Photo Courtesy of UNC Athletic Communications.
Buy Photos UNC junior guard Kennedy Todd-Williams (3) shoots the ball during the women's basketball game against Iowa State at the Phill Knight Invitational in Portland, Ore. on Sunday, Nov. 27, 2022. UNC beat Iowa State 73-64. Photo Courtesy of UNC Athletic Communications.

The North Carolina women's basketball team walked out of Portland, Ore., as champions after besting two ranked opponents in the Phil Knight Invitational to claim the tournament title. 

UNC emerged from the weekend riding on a high. The Tar Heels are sitting at No. 6 — their highest ranking since 2014 — and were named the NCAA Team of the Week. However, one of the Tar Heels' toughest tests of the season is yet to come, as North Carolina will face No. 5 Indiana on Thursday ini the ACC-Big Ten Challenge. 

In order for the Tar Heels to keep their undefeated record and get a second top-10 win, here are three things they must do in their upcoming bout: 

Establish a rhythm early on 

In the last three games UNC has played, each one has been won in a come-from-behind fashion after trailing in the first half. In the Tar Heels' most recent matchup against Iowa State, they found themselves down 35-22 at halftime, and at one point were down by 17 points.

The victories demonstrated impressive grit from UNC, but have also exposed a tendency to come out flat. 

“We don't want to be a team that is only a second-half team,” junior guard Deja Kelly said on Sunday. “That's something that we definitely have to work on.”

Junior guard Kennedy Todd-Williams was quick to agree, emphasizing how important it was for the team to get off to a strong start and settle into the game. 

“We're a rhythm team,” she said. “We have to get in rhythm.” 

Let the ball fly

Part of the reason North Carolina has found itself at a disadvantage during the first 20 minutes of play in its recent games is because of poor shot selection. Throughout the first two-quarters of UNC's bout against Iowa State, the Tar Heels shot 21 percent from the field and just 14 percent from 3-point range.

Head coach Courtney Banghart blamed these low numbers on shaky confidence, saying on Sunday that “they were really hesitant” to take shots in the first half against the Cyclones.

In order to come out on top in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge matchup, the Tar Heels will have to make an effort to take high-percentage shots earlier in the game and capitalize on all shooting opportunities presented to them. 

Prepare for Mackenzie Holmes and Yarden Garzon

Indiana women's basketball boasts a productive offensive unit spearheaded by Mackenzie Holmes and Yarden Garzon. The pair were named Big Ten Player of the Week and Freshman of the Week, respectively, after their performances in the Las Vegas International this past weekend. 

Holmes, a senior forward and leader of the team, put up massive numbers for the Hoosiers, averaging over 26 points and eight rebounds over the course of the tournament's two games. She was efficient, too, shooting 88 percent from the floor in that span.

Garzon, a 6-foot-3 first-year guard, was also impressive. She averaged 19 points, six rebounds and five assists over the two games. 

UNC will have to be creative with its defense to shut down these offensive threats. 

Most importantly, North Carolina will look to implement the same mindset the team used in the Phil Knight Invitational that led them to success. 

“Our goal was to be really hard to beat,” Banghart said. 

So far, the Tar Heels have been. And come Thursday, it'll have to stay that way to prevent them from losing their first game all season.

@PeaceGwen

@dthsports | sports@dailytarheel.com

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