GREENSBORO, N.C. — The No. 18 North Carolina women’s basketball team (21-10, 11-8 ACC) fell to No. 13 Duke (25-5, 15-4), 44-40, in the ACC Tournament quarterfinals at the Greensboro Coliseum on Friday evening.
The Blue Devils drew first blood when guard Reigan Richardson hit a baseline jumper to break UNC’s 3-2 zone. UNC junior guard Kennedy Todd-Williams scored a layup, but Duke wing Elizabeth Balogun hit a three and Richardson scored again to help Duke jump out to a 9-5 lead.
UNC first-year guard Paulina Paris nailed a 3-pointer from the top of the key to close out the first quarter. Todd-Williams hit a pullup jumper and Ustby drained a corner three with no hesitation — her first triple since January. Kelly scored inside to put UNC up 16-14 midway through the second quarter, followed by a stepback mid-range over ACC Defensive Player of the Year Celeste Taylor.
First-year guard Kayla McPherson crossed her defender and kicked the ball out to Kelly, who hit an and-one corner three. Kelly completed the four-point play by hitting the free throw, and North Carolina forced a turnover on the other end. Down 16-24 to UNC, Balogun hit a three to close out the first half.
The Tar Heels exploded out of the break with redshirt senior guard Eva Hodgson hitting back-to-back threes, but the Blue Devils quickly answered with a 7-0 run, including a three from Balogun. Duke had back-to-back defensive possessions end with a block to halt UNC’s momentum, and Ustby hit a layup for UNC to go up 32-28.
After another scoreless few minutes, Duke center Mia Heide hit two free throws to cut it to one point. Kelly scored an and-one fastbreak layup but missed the free throw, and North Carolina led 36-34 headed into the fourth quarter.
Taylor hit two pullup jumpers for Duke to take the lead early in the fourth quarter. Poole scored on a fastbreak layup to tie it up at 38-38. McPherson found Poole inside for another layup with under four minutes to play. Richardson connected on a wide open mid-range to tie it up once again.
Balogun hit two crucial free throws with under two minutes to play and Duke controlled the ball for almost an entire minute. Hodgson and Kelly missed two wide open threes and the Blue Devils regained possession. Kelly missed two more shots and from there, Duke never looked back.