COLUMBUS, Ohio — The No. 6 seed North Carolina women’s basketball team (22-11, 11-7 ACC) fell to No. 3 seed Ohio State (27-7, 12-6 Big Ten), 71-69, in the second round of the NCAA Tournament at the Schottenstein Center on Monday evening.
The Buckeyes exploded out of the gate with hot 3-point shooting from guards Taylor Mikesell and Jacy Sheldon, while North Carolina committed five turnovers against Ohio State’s full court press. Junior forward Alyssa Ustby finally put UNC on the board with a fadeaway over forward Cotie McMahon, but Ohio State held a commanding 11-2 lead at the first media timeout after forcing a shot clock violation.
First-year guard Kayla McPherson subbed in for redshirt senior guard Eva Hodgson and instantly made an impact, holding Mikesell to a wild outside miss and a turnover. Meanwhile, junior guard Deja Kelly went unconscious, scoring eight points and propelling the Tar Heels to outscore Ohio State 12-5 after the media timeout. The Buckeyes led 16-14 heading into the second frame.
Ohio State extended its lead with McMahon using her imposing frame to continue barreling through defenders, which got other Buckeyes going. Forward Eboni Walker, Sheldon, forward Taylor Thierry and Mikesell all scored. McPherson subbed out midway through the second quarter, and with Hodgson guarding Mikesell once again, the leading scorer immediately connected from outside.
Kelly hit a three to slow the momentum, but Ohio State held an eight point lead at the media timeout. Junior guard Kennedy Todd-Williams got going with two baskets but picked up her third foul just before halftime, and UNC trailed 28-33.
Hodgson bounced back after the break with two threes, but McMahon and Taylor answered with six points and Ohio State extended its lead to eight points with free throws. McPherson hit a three and a fastbreak layup to help UNC trim the deficit to one point, but the Buckeyes closed out the third quarter with a 5-0 run from Sheldon and Mikesell.
Ohio State continued its scoring barrage with two immediate baskets out of the break and UNC called timeout. The Tar Heels had a short 4-0 scoring run of their own, but Mikesell hit a three to extend Ohio State’s lead to 12 points. Kelly got hurt on the play and had to be carried off the court.
Still, North Carolina gradually willed its way back into the game. Ustby finally got going with two late baskets — including an and-one. She missed the free throw, but sophomore forward Destiny Adams secured the rebound, leading to Todd-Williams’ corner three getting the lucky bounce.
The Tar Heels took their first lead of the game with under two minutes to play. A series of chaotic back-and-forth buckets and turnovers culminated with Ohio State possession at under 10 seconds to go. Sheldon hit the game winner with 1.8 seconds left and the Tar Heels couldn’t convert the inbounds play to tie the game.
Who stood out?
Kelly led UNC scorers with 22 points on 7-18 shooting. Ustby and Todd-Williams activated in the fourth quarter, combining for 15 points in that frame.
Sheldon hit the game winner and finished with 16 points. Walker, Mikesell and McMahon scored 15, 17 and 14 points, respectively.
When was it decided?
The game went down to the final 9.8 seconds, when Sheldon hit the game winner.
Why does it matter?
It’s been a roller coaster of a season for the Tar Heels, who battled injuries through conference play and didn’t see a fully healthy roster until the ACC Tournament. Banghart’s core junior quartet will likely return to Chapel Hill for next season, but it was Hodgson’s final collegiate game.
When do they play next?
The loss concludes the end of the 2022-2023 regular season.
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