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The Daily Tar Heel

UNC women's basketball earns 56-47 rivalry win over N.C. State

UNC junior guard Deja Kelly (25) makes a strong defensive effort against NC State in the women's basketball game at Carmichael Arena on Sunday, Jan. 15, 2023. UNC won 56-47.

The No. 22 North Carolina women’s basketball team (12-5, 3-3 ACC) bested No. 11 N.C. State (13-5, 3-4 ACC) 56-47 on Sunday afternoon in Carmichael Arena in its sixth conference matchup of the season. 

What happened?

Despite multiple opportunities for both teams, the game got off to a slow start, remaining scoreless for over two minutes. N.C. State got on the board first, capitalizing on two free throws to gain an early lead. The Tar Heels were able to quickly find a response, with graduate guard Eva Hodgson draining a step-back three to put them ahead of the Wolfpack. 

From there, the two teams traded the lead back and forth several times, neither gaining more than a two-point advantage. The quarter closed out with another made 3-pointer from Hodgson off a fast-break turnover to give UNC an 11-9 lead at the 10-minute mark. 

The second quarter began at the line for junior guard Deja Kelly, who sank one of her free throws to give North Carolina a three-point lead. N.C. State was immediately able to respond with a layup from center River Baldwin to put them back within one. Junior guard Kennedy Todd-Williams was able to one again stretch the Tar Heel lead to three with an under-the-basket hook, which was followed by an N.C. State turnover. Any forward momentum on behalf of UNC was stymied, however, by the onset of the second media time-out. 

After returning to the court, the teams once again traded the lead back and forth, remaining within touching distance of one another for the majority of the period. With just over one minute remaining, the score was tied at 19. Kelly was able to capitalize one more time, sinking a step-back jumper to make the score 21-19 in the Tar Heels' favor at the halfway mark. 

N.C. State came out of the gates hot in the second half, immediately scoring on a layup off the hands of guard Madison Hayes to tie the game once more. From there, guard Diamond Johnson was able to sink two back-to-back layups to push NC State ahead by four in the first three minutes of the second period. North Carolina was able to find an answer and bounced the ball out to Hodgson who drained a three with six minutes left on the clock. Junior forward Alyssa Ustby then sank a layup to regain the lead for UNC. 

The remainder of the period saw the teams trading evenly matched, and the third quarter ended with N.C. State leading by one, 32-31 after 30 minutes of play. 

The final quarter started in a similar fashion to the first three, with the opponents trading baskets. However, a made floater by junior forward Alexandra Zelaya followed in quick succession by a steal from Todd-Williams that she converted into a three-point play gave UNC the forward momentum it needed to get hot. 

Back-to-back 3-point jumpers from sophomore forward Destiny Adams, followed by a drive to the basket for two put the nail in the coffin for N.C. State and clinched the Tar Heels' victory. 

Who stood out? 

The first half of the game was slow offensively, with no Tar Heel putting up more than six points. However, the entire North Carolina team shined on defense, limiting the scoring abilities of N.C. State and holding the Wolfpack to under 20 points in the first 20 minutes. 

Todd-Williams made the difference in UNC’s offensive efforts in the second half of the game, making several momentum plays off turnovers and recording 15 points to lead the Tar Heels to victory. 

When was it decided?

The game, which was defined by strong defensive performance on behalf of both the Tar Heels and the Wolfpack, remained neck-in-neck throughout the first three quarters, with neither team leading by more than four points. 

However, the momentum began to shift at the beginning of the fourth quarter, after a steal by Todd-Williams and subsequent and-one under the basket gave the Tar Heels a three-point play and a four-point lead. From there, the Wolfpack was never able to fully close the gap, culminating in a nine-point UNC victory. 

Why does it matter?

The win against N.C. State was a key factor in getting North Carolina back on track in conference play, bringing the team’s ACC record to 3-3. Furthermore, it is another major momentum-building victory against a ranked team that sets the standard for the way the team will look to play throughout the rest of its challenging conference schedule. 

When do they play next?

North Carolina will next take the court on Thursday, Jan 18 to face off against No.16 Duke in its second consecutive rivalry game. Tip-off is set for 8 p.m.


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Gwen Peace

Gwen Peace is the 2023-24 assistant sports editor at The Daily Tar Heel. She has previously served as a senior writer. Gwen is a sophomore pursuing a double major in media and journalism and peace, war and defense.