The No. 16 North Carolina women’s basketball team (1-0) routed the Gardner-Webb Bulldogs (0-1), 102-49, in its season-opener at Carmichael Arena on Wednesday night. During the debut of what is essentially a brand new team, transfer sophomore guard Indya Nivar led all Tar Heels in scoring with 17 points on 7-13 shooting.
Despite having eight new faces, two familiar ones shined in the opening minutes of Wednesday’s season opener. Senior guard Deja Kelly drew first blood with a mid-range shot near the free-throw line. On the next possession, she found the same look to extend the lead to four. Senior forward Alyssa Ustby followed the lead of her veteran teammate with an easy layup off a fast break.
Before the first media timeout, the Tar Heels continued to dominate in the paint to the tune of 12-6. However, off six different 3-point attempts, UNC failed to make one.
Following the break, the Tar Heels quickly put those fears to rest, with sophomore guard Paulina Paris and Kelly hitting 3-pointers. To help put the final nail in the coffin for long-range concerns, Nivar made a half-court shot at the buzzer to end the first period and put UNC up 24-12.
“I never did that before in a basketball game so it’s pretty exciting,” Nivar said.
With a wide smile on her face, Ustby could only describe the long shot as “awesome.”
As the newness of her first North Carolina basketball game wore off, another fresh face began to show out as the clock began to tick during the second quarter. Of junior center Maria Gakdeng’s three shot attempts, she made all three to help secure a double-digit lead.
By making free throws, focusing on attacking the rim, and having the tandem of new and old working together, the Tar Heels exited the half up, 45-26.
But despite this lead, UNC only made one 3-point shot in the second quarter in nine attempts. With only four successful shots finding the net, the Tar Heels sported a 17.4 3-point percentage heading into halftime.