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Friday February 3rd

Alyssa Ustby leads UNC to big win over Duke after battling through severe dehydration

UNC junior guard Alyssa Ustby (1) and UNC freshman guard Paulina Paris (2) fight for the ball during the women’s basketball game against Duke on Thursday, Jan. 19, 2023, at Carmichael Arena.
Buy Photos UNC junior guard Alyssa Ustby (1) and UNC freshman guard Paulina Paris (2) fight for the ball during the women’s basketball game against Duke on Thursday, Jan. 19, 2023, at Carmichael Arena.

When junior forward Alyssa Ustby woke up Thursday, she felt like she had been hit by a bus. But that wasn’t going to stop her from playing against Duke.

On Thursday night, there was no sign of how poorly Ustby felt that morning in No. 17 North Carolina’s 61-56 win over the No. 13 Blue Devils. The Minnesota native played all but one minute of the game, scoring 16 points and adding five rebounds, three assists, three steals and two blocks.

“There was really nothing stopping me from playing, because I don’t want to miss out on something so special,” Ustby said. “The Duke-Carolina rivalry doesn’t happen very often, especially when you’re playing at home with a great crowd. I would be even more sick if I couldn’t play.”

Initially, Ustby had no clue why she felt bad. She texted Jodi Schneider, the team’s athletic trainer, to figure out what she needed to do in order to play and went through a multitude of tests, all of which came back negative. In the end, Schneider concluded that Ustby was just dehydrated.

Two liters of saline later, she was rejuvenated. Still, as a precaution, Ustby didn’t participate in practice or shoot around with her team.

“My body was just aching,” Ustby said. “I was like, ‘I’m just going to save my energy for the game because I don’t know how much I’m going to have.’”

In the end, it wasn't a problem. After the game, she felt she could run for days.

Her energy was never more evident than in the third quarter, when her team needed it most. 

UNC and Duke were tied at 21 when the quarter began. But when it ended, North Carolina led 40-31, thanks in part to Ustby scoring 10 points and going a perfect 5-for-5 from the field.

“(At halftime) we really talked about spacing them out and using Alyssa as either a screen and roller or a spacer depending on how they were defending it,” head coach Courtney Banghart said. “I think this really opened up their eyes as to what they needed. The ball moved a little bit better, and we made more shots because of it… Alyssa around the room was dangerous tonight.”

Ustby’s impact wasn’t just on the offensive end. Her efforts on defense were crucial to North Carolina closing out the game. In the second half, the Tar Heels switched to a 3-2 zone defense, with Ustby acting as the anchor down low. For the rest of the game, the six-foot-one Ustby shut down the paint, allowing just one layup.

“The post defense was well-written given that we’re undersized in the post,” Banghart said. “It’s not written enough, though, how tough we are. We know it has to be a collective, and that’s okay. We don’t worry about that. That’s who we are.”

Ustby showed her toughness in all facets of her game on Thursday, but somehow, leading her team to a win over Duke wasn’t even the toughest part of her day. It was battling through illness to make it onto the court in the first place.

“There was no option for me missing out on an opportunity to beat Duke and an opportunity to play with my teammates," Ustby said. "There’s nothing like it, and I’m not going to take a moment of it for granted. If I can get healthy and I can play, I’m going to play.”

@thenoahmonroe

@dthsports | sports@dailytarheel.com

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