The No. 22 North Carolina women's basketball team (11-5, 2-3 ACC) defeated UVA (13-4, 2-4 ACC) 70-59 Thursday night in Charlottesville in their fourth conference matchup of the season.
The game got off to a slow start, with strong defensive showings from both teams resulting in a score of 0-0 at the first media time out. A set of fouls put the first points on the board, making the score 2-1 in UNC’s favor. From there, the offensive struggle continued, with neither team being able to sink a field goal for almost three minutes. With seven minutes remaining, junior guard Alyssa Utsby snapped the dry spell with a stepback jumper to give North Carolina a three point lead.
UVA came back strong in the second half of the first quarter, capitalizing off of several turnovers and second chance opportunities to work its way up to a 10-4 lead with just under five minutes to go. North Carolina managed to claw its way back through a strong defensive showing and a few contested jumpers to get within three at the end of the first.
UVA opened up the second quarter hot, immediately scoring a basket to give them a five point lead. The two teams traded points back and forth until a lengthy stoppage over a personal foul on behalf of UVA halted the momentum of the game. When play resumed, first-year guard Paulina Paris knocked down both of her free throws to get UNC back within one point. From there, Utsby was able sink a layup off of a UVA turnover to put the Tar Heels back on top. The two teams remained close to each other for the remaining minutes of the period to end the half with UNC leading 30-27.
A made second-chance three point jumper from graduate forward Sam Brunelle allowed UVA to tie the score once more, 30-30, within the first minute of the second half. The Cavaliers then slowly extended their lead over UNC to find themselves up by eight, the largest margin of the game, with just under six minutes to go. North Carolina attempted to fight back, but ultimately was unable to make any forward momentum, ending the third quarter trailing UVA by nine points, 51-42.
A strong push from UNC, spearheaded by junior guard Deja Kelly, to outscore UVA 17-6 in the first seven minutes of the final quarter allowed the Tar Heels to once again retake the lead. A made three pointer from Paris followed in quick succession by a layup from junior guard Kennedy Todd-Williams put the nail in the coffin, and UNC was able to ultimately triumph 70-59.
Who stood out?
Todd-Williams scored team high of 21 points on the night, and was the driving force behind multiple momentum plays for UNC, scoring three three-pointers and recording six rebounds.
Senior guard Taylor Valladay made an immediate impact for the Cavaliers, scoring 10 points in the first quarter and playing a key role in getting Virginia’s momentum going. Brunelle also was impressive, scoring a 5-6 from beyond the arch and ending the night with 16 points
When was it decided?
The game was neck and neck throughout the first three quarters, with neither team being able to pull ahead by more than 10 points and gain a definitive lead. UNC took charge in the fourth quarter however, and outscored UVA 28-8 to emerge victorious.
Why does it matter?
After a momentous win against No. 7 Notre Dame in their previous game, the Tar Heels needed another victory to keep their positive momentum going. Furthermore, with the win against UVA, North Carolina moves to 2-3 in the ACC and takes a positive step forward in the quest for a winning conference record.
When do they play next?
North Carolina will return home on Sunday, January 15 to face-off against NC State in their fifth conference game of the season. Tip-off is scheduled for 3:30 p.m.
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