With about one and a half minutes left in the North Carolina women's basketball team's 99-67 win over Wofford on Sunday, first-year guard Paulina Paris had the opportunity to get the Tar Heels over the 100-point mark. With a simple layup, she would have registered her second double-digit scoring outing of the season.
But instead of taking the easy make, she attempted to pass the ball to Ariel Young — who had been out all of last season due to a knee injury — with the hopes of giving the redshirt senior guard her first points of the season. Even though the pass ultimately led to a turnover, such a display was emblematic of the team-first mindset North Carolina has demonstrated all season.
“I think that kind of encapsulates what we’re about,” head coach Courtney Banghart said.
Graduate guard Eva Hodgson’s performance was great proof of the selflessness shown by the team's top players.
In addition to scoring 20 points, Hodgson also recorded a team-high six assists. By getting her teammates involved, Hodgson and the rest of the Tar Heels showed how much the group enjoys moving the ball.
“I think part of it just comes from a want as a whole group of guards to facilitate for others,” Hodgson said.
Despite the large victory, North Carolina was sluggish in the first half and only led by three points at the end of the first quarter. It was the energy and leadership of junior guard Kennedy Todd-Williams that allowed UNC to gain momentum early in the second quarter and dominate the rest of the afternoon.
“It was neck and neck a little bit, but we got stops and easy scores," Todd-Williams said. "People were hot so we just were looking for each other so it made it easier for Wofford to let us have that lead.”
Though Todd-Williams scored just two points in the first quarter, she picked up 13 in the second quarter by shooting 3-4 from 3-point range — allowing the team to get and hold onto the momentum it needed.
With the help of explosive second and third quarter runs, four players finished the game in double figures. This spread of points indicates that there isn’t a lot of pressure on just one player, as Hodgson summed up.
“It allows people to play a little more freely," she said. "On any given night we need different people to step up and be able to produce because you don’t know how you’re going to shoot."
UNC’s performance came after back-to-back slow offensive games against Indiana and UNCW. On Sunday, the team responded by playing as a cohesive unit, which generated instant results.
“Coach told us before the game we needed to feel like Carolina itself for this game, because for the last few games we haven’t been playing up to our potential,” Todd-Williams said.
The Tar Heels were truly able to play ‘like Carolina itself’ on Sunday and showed strength in their ability to put each other first.
Moving into conference play in a few weeks and matchups against an increased number of ranked opponents, it will be crucial that UNC keeps this momentum and spirit. But given Hodgson and UNC’s current ‘team first’ mentality, continued success seems inevitable.
@dthsports | email@example.com
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