Coming back from an 11-point deficit in the fourth quarter, the No. 18 North Carolina women’s basketball team (5-0) defeated Vermont (3-2), 54-51, in a hard test for its first of three tournament games at the Gulf Coast Showcase on Friday afternoon.
Withstanding a poor shooting display through most of the game, the Tar Heels found their stride in the fourth quarter to end the game on a 10-2 run and avoid the upset against the Catamounts.
Under head coach Courtney Banghart, UNC now holds an undefeated record of 26-0 during the month of November. The Tar Heels’ trek down to Estero, Fla. for the showcase, was their first game outside of Carmichael Arena this season.
Earning her first start of the season, sophomore guard Indya Nivar opened the game with a pair of emphatic blocks. The rejections set the tone early for a North Carolina defense that has held its last two opponents to under 40 points.
A slow-paced first quarter saw little scoring – especially from a Tar Heel side that struggled to shoot early. Going 4-16 from the field, UNC trailed at the end of the first 13-8.
The Tar Heels didn’t have much of an answer for Vermont guard Emma Utterback, who led all scorers in the first quarter with seven points.
Shooting woes continued through the halftime buzzer for North Carolina, as the team shot less than 25 percent from the floor. This included an abysmal 0-9 from three and 1-7 from the charity stripe.
Ending the first half, the Tar Heels fell behind the Catamounts 28-17 after a scoring drought that lasted the final four minutes of the second quarter.
“At halftime it was like, alright enough is enough,” Banghart said. “If we are not going to shoot well then we have to defend, and we were able to do that.”