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Friday February 3rd

Adams' late-game heroics secure upset victory for UNC women's hoops over No. 11 N.C. State

<p>UNC sophomore forward Destiny Adams (20) passes the ball during the women's basketball game against N.C. State at Carmichael Arena on Sunday, Jan. 15, 2023. UNC beat N.C. State 56-47.</p>
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UNC sophomore forward Destiny Adams (20) passes the ball during the women's basketball game against N.C. State at Carmichael Arena on Sunday, Jan. 15, 2023. UNC beat N.C. State 56-47.

For much of UNC’s ACC slate, sophomore forward Destiny Adams has been waiting her turn. 

She’s been patient. She’s developed a myriad of bench celebrations in the meantime – from hitting the deck and mimicking CPR after a breathtaking play, going down the sideline and shooting her teammates following a 3-pointer or simply waving her towel and dancing to keep the bench energy up.

On Sunday afternoon, Adams made her moment count.

With just over four minutes remaining in UNC’s rivalry contest against No. 11 N.C. State, the New Jersey native entered the game. She had yet to score. Then, in less than two minutes, she dropped eight points to help No. 22 North Carolina secure a 56-47 upset victory in front of a sold-out Carmichael Arena crowd. 

While Adams’ quick trigger from behind the arc exuded confidence, her coach and teammates would tell you her self-belief has been the aspect of her game that’s needed the most tweaking. 

“Destiny has had immense growth from year one to year two, but I think the biggest growth is realizing how good she is and that she's had all the tools in order to shoot well,” junior small forward Alyssa Ustby said.

After UNC’s second straight loss to open conference play — a 68-65 loss at Virginia Tech — Adams approached head coach Courtney Banghart. When the sophomore asked what she needed to improve, Banghart pulled out the team’s stat sheet.

At the time, Adams ranked in the top three on the team in 3-point and field-goal percentage. 

“She had absolutely no idea,” Banghart said. 

Adams, who identifies as a high-effort player, was then issued a challenge by her head coach.

“You’re one of our better 3-point shooters,” Banghart told her. “I would work on that. I would make that be something that you really hang your hat on.”

Since then, Adams has been working on her 3-point shot “every day.” It’s to the point that Banghart suggested Adams owes the team managers something for rebounding for the forward “non-stop."

On an afternoon in which UNC shot a season-low 29.7 percent from the floor and was held to a season-low 56 points, Adams was the only Tar Heel on the court that was shooting at a solid clip.

After banking in a turn-around layup over two Wolfpack defenders with just over three minutes remaining, Adams decided to expand her range. On the next offensive possession, she set up right in front of her bench and fired a shot from behind the arc.

Swish.

Suddenly, Adams’ teammates on the bench took over her sideline antics. Kennedy Todd-Williams slung her towel emphatically in Adams’ direction and several other Tar Heels jumped up and down to hype up the crowd. 

Just a minute and a half later, Adams rose up from the same spot, knocking down another 3-pointer to deliver her team a seven-point lead. 

“We needed the win against State,” Adams said “We had to beat them. I just wanted to give my team everything I had.”

Awaiting the start of Sunday’s postgame press conference, Banghart stood with Adams on a staircase inside Carmichael Arena. Next to them was North Carolina Director of Athletics Bubba Cunningham. UNC’s head coach glowed with pride, telling Cunningham how Adams “deserves every bit” of her success.

Later, in North Carolina’s presser, when Adams began to describe her role as a hustle player, Banghart interrupted her.

“Your role also is to make big shots, Des,” Banghart said.

Even after a game-clinching performance, Adams needed the reminder.

Despite Banghart’s acclaims throughout the season of Adams being the team’s “Dennis Rodman” and a much-improved “Des 2.0," the sophomore hadn’t entirely bought into the hype.

Perhaps Sunday’s game will prove to Adams what her coach has known all season long. She’s more than just her bench antics. She can do far more for UNC than defend in the post or hit the deck every now and then for a loose ball.

Adams is a scorer. She put that on display in a top-25 rivalry matchup. She leads the team in field goal percentage and 3-point percentage. 

Now, she just needs to believe it herself.

@shelbymswanson

@dthsports | sports@dailytarheel.com

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