The Daily Tar Heel

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Sunday March 26th

No. 19 UNC women's basketball earns a fundamental win over Wake Forest

UNC junior guard Deja Kelly (25) defending during the women's basketball game against the NC State Wolfpack in Carmichael Arena on Sunday, Jan. 15, 2023. The Tar Heels won 56-47.
Buy Photos UNC junior guard Deja Kelly (25) defending during the women's basketball game against the NC State Wolfpack in Carmichael Arena on Sunday, Jan. 15, 2023. The Tar Heels won 56-47.

It’s good to have fundamental wins sometimes.

On Sunday, that’s exactly what North Carolina women’s basketball’s 71-58 home victory over Wake Forest seemed to be.

The No. 19 team in the country beating a bottom-tier conference opponent handily was what was supposed to happen. The Tar Heels didn’t win the game from the free throw line or from beyond the arc — they did it by playing simple basketball.

With junior forward Alyssa Ustby and graduate guard Eva Hodgson still out of the lineup due to injuries, the Tar Heels didn’t try to do anything fancy. They just relied upon star junior guard Deja Kelly, who was supplemented by Poole and the bench.

Sometimes, playing good basketball isn’t flashy. It’s doing things like dishing out 18 assists — a high in conference play for UNC — and earning 38 points in the paint. 

That’s going to get the job done in most games.

UNC head coach Courtney Banghart noted that, in a really tough conference like the ACC, every game matters.

“That’s a pretty experienced group we played, and we’ve still got some moving pieces and moving parts,” she said.

Kelly scored 24 points in the victory, earning 20-plus points for the second time in four games. She also filled in for Ustby and Hodgson by dishing out six assists and tying the team-high in rebounds with five.

“Once I hit a few (shots) in a row then it’s like, ‘OK,’” Kelly said. “I also was just making plays. It was just whatever the defense was giving me. I was just making reads.”

With just over a minute left in the game, Kelly was able to check out of the game and sit on the bench after playing nearly the entire game up to that point. As she came off the court, Ustby and Hodgson were there to greet her with a group hug.

Junior forward Anya Poole also played an important role in the Tar Heels’ win.

Standing at six-foot-two, Poole usually isn’t going to be the tallest player on the court, but that isn’t something she lets get to her head. 

“I’m not undersized in the heart, the strength and just my ability,” Poole said. “So, knowing that, I can get in the weight room and get stronger or I can get on the court and I can get faster.”

With Ustby being out, Poole has had to play a bigger role in the rebounding game, and it showed on Saturday. She was able to score eight points and get five rebounds against the Demon Deacons, including two on the offensive glass. 

Poole has also been an incredibly efficient scoring threat, shooting 65 percent from the field in the last four games — the first four games Ustby's missed since coming to Chapel Hill. Before that, Poole was shooting just over 50 percent against ACC opponents.

The efforts extended to the bench on Sunday as energetic play from reserve players helped North Carolina make up for Ustby and Hodgson being out.

Sophomore forward Destiny Adams was North Carolina’s second-leading scorer, providing 11 points off the bench while first-year guard Paulina Paris had an all-around game, scoring seven points on an efficient 60 percent shooting. Paris also grabbed four boards, dished out two assists and had two steals.

All in all, it was a complete team effort — something the Tar Heels needed after losing three of their last four games.

“We talked about one of the keys was that everyone’s going to bring their piece,” Banghart said. “When you’re undermanned, that has to happen. And I hope that now this experience should help them as we get closer to March.”


@dthsports |

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