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UNC women's basketball opens ACC Tournament with 68-58 win over Clemson

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The UNC women's basketball team waves to the crowd in celebration after the game against Clemson University in the second round of ACC Tournament in Greensboro, NC. UNC won 68-58.

GREENSBORO, N.C. — The No. 18 North Carolina women’s basketball team (21-9, 11-7 ACC) opened up postseason play by defeating Clemson (17-15, 7-11 ACC), 68-58, in the second round of the ACC Tournament on Thursday evening at the Greensboro Coliseum.

What happened?

UNC redshirt senior guard Eva Hodgson broke out of her recent shooting slump and went 3-3 from downtown in the first five minutes. However, Clemson forward Amari Robinson put up nine points of her own, and the Tigers trailed 18-13 at the first media timeout.

With UNC’s star junior guard Deja Kelly resting early, the Tigers went on a short 4-0 run before junior guard Kennedy Todd-Williams hit a three on the left wing to halt Clemson’s momentum. First-year guard Paulina Paris and junior forward Alyssa Ustby forced a Clemson turnover and Paris finished the fastbreak layup to close out the first quarter.

Todd-Williams opened up the second quarter with a corner three as the Tar Heels strung together a few defensive stops. Robinson scored another four points to continue carrying Clemson’s offense, notching 17 points by halftime, and Kelly connected for a 3-pointer to put UNC up 32-26.

Sophomore forward Destiny Adams snuck inside for a layup and drew a charge on the other end. North Carolina forced a shot-clock violation on the Tigers’ next possession and Ustby found Adams inside for another basket. Another Tiger turnover led to an Ustby mid-range basket and Clemson head coach Amanda Butler called timeout.

The Tigers reverted back to their 2-3 zone and forced back-to-back turnovers to go on a 5-0 run, including a fastbreak corner three from guard Daisha Bradford. Kelly picked up her third foul near halftime and was sidelined for the third time. UNC led 40-32 at halftime.

The Tar Heels began to extend their lead well into the third quarter, with junior forward Anya Poole, Ustby and Todd-Williams combining for eight points. Guard Ale'Jah Douglas connected on a deep three and Hodgson hit another 3-pointer. Ustby went coast to coast for an easy fastbreak layup to put North Carolina up 53-39.

Clemson gained some traction on a 5-0 run while Ustby picked up her fourth foul. Paris had back-to-back turnovers with Kelly sidelined, and Adams made an errant pass to close out the third quarter, with UNC’s lead down to just seven points.

Kelly checked back into the game and scored two mid-range jumpers, answered by baskets from Bradford and Robinson. Hodgson drove baseline and slipped a pass inside to Adams, whose layup put the Tar Heels up 61-50 with four minutes to play. From there, Clemson was unable to put together a scoring run, and North Carolina milked out the clock.

Who stood out? 

Hodgson led UNC from long-range, connecting on four of her seven 3-point attempts. Ustby also shined, scoring 15 points on 7-12 shooting while dishing out four assists, hauling in six rebounds and collecting two steals.

Robinson was Clemson’s lone player in double figures, scoring 27 points on 9-12 shooting.

When was it decided?

Clemson managed to stay within single digits for most of the bout, but ultimately Kelly, Ustby and Adams helped maintain a lead midway through the fourth quarter to put the game away for the Tar Heels.

Additionally, the battle was won through ball control. The Tar Heels only committed 15 turnovers to the Tigers’ 23.

Why does it matter?

It’s UNC head coach Courtney Banghart’s first ACC Tournament win in her time at the helm of the program. Additionally, after lackluster performances in their return from injuries, both Hodgson and Ustby had stellar nights — perhaps previewing what Banghart’s roster is capable of at full strength as the postseason continues.

When do they play next?

The Tar Heels will face No. 13 Duke on Friday in the quarterfinals in the Greensboro Coliseum. Tip-off is at 6 p.m.

@danielhwei

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@dthsports | sports@dailytarheel.com


Daniel Wei

Daniel Wei is a 2023-24 assistant sports editor at The Daily Tar Heel. He has previously served as a senior writer. Daniel is a junior pursuing a double major in business administration and economics.