The No. 16 North Carolina women’s basketball team (2-0) staved off a potential upset by Davidson (2-1) with a 74-70 win on Sunday night. Despite Davidson recording 10 3-pointers on the night, UNC was able to get to the line and ice the game in the final minute.
“Usually if a team makes 10 threes, you don't win that game,” Banghart said.
The Tar Heels rolled with the same starting lineup as seen in their 102-49 rout of Gardner-Webb: senior guard Deja Kelly, first-year guard Reniya Kelly, junior forward Maria Gakdeng, senior forward Alyssa Ustby and graduate guard Lexi Donarski.
But it was a small-ball lineup head coach Courtney Banghart tried out later which would result in UNC’s best stretch of the play in the first quarter. Gakdeng came out for sophomore guard Indya Nivar, leaving only one Tar Heel, Ustby, who taller than six feet.
The Tar Heels double-teamed Davidson whenever it entered the post to prevent mismatches, while its ball pressure forced five Davidson turnovers in the first period. The only field goal Davidson scored in the four minutes was a turnaround hook by Wildcat Millie Prior posted up against Deja Kelly.
“In terms of what I like about that lineup, I can learn to like it,” Banghart said. “I liked it a lot last year, but I'd like to practice it if we're going to play it.”
Trotting out this lineup was not her plan. Banghart said the team found out the day of the game that senior forward Anya Poole would not play due to a lower-body injury.
That forced Nivar, a guard, to play at the bottom of UNC’s 3-2 matchup zone, which Banghart said she had never done before.
Despite her inexperience, Nivar was key to the lineup’s early success and continued her disruption in the second quarter. Forced to play bigger than her 5-foot-10 frame, she led her team in stripping the Wildcats of the ball.