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The Daily Tar Heel

No. 24 North Carolina women’s basketball snaps losing streak, outlasts UNCG 81-66

20231206_Sharon_w-basketball-vs-uncg-14.jpg
UNC senior guard/forward Alyssa Ustby (1) prepares to shoot during the women’s basketball game against UNC Greensboro on Dec. 6, 2023 at Carmichael Arena. UNC is up 36-34 at the half.

The No. 24 North Carolina women’s basketball team (6-3) snapped a 3-game losing streak, defeating the UNC Greensboro Spartans (6-3), 81-66. In what became a game of runs, the Tar Heels had the last laugh, closing out the Spartans in the fourth.

North Carolina’s plan of attack was clear from the very first play — take it inside. The Tar Heels entered the first media timeout leading 11-2, with each of their five makes coming in the paint. They commanded a 14-2 advantage in points in the paint in the first quarter en route to a 22-9 lead.

After the Spartans trailed by as much as 15 early in the second quarter, they made a push. A trio of triples by UNCG junior Kennedy Simpson helped pull the game within four. Simpson was nuclear from deep in the second quarter, drilling all four of her attempts. 

What looked like a probable blowout early turned out to be just the opposite. North Carolina was on its heels. 

“Experience in the mid-major world is dangerous to play against — we know that,” North Carolina head coach Courtney Banghart said. 

The threes kept falling for the Spartans. They shot six of eight from deep in the first half  — the Tar Heels netted just one of eight. North Carolina senior Alyssa Ustby was the saving grace for the home team in the first half. The forward scored 11 first half points on efficient shooting, and if it weren’t for her buzzer beating layup to end the half, the game would have been tied at the break. Instead, the Tar Heels led it 36-34.

“My approach for any game is to take it to them right away,” Ustby said.

North Carolina briefly retook control with a 10-0 run to start the third quarter. It took less than three and a half minutes for the Tar Heels to rebuild that 15 point lead from the second quarter. But then Simpson reentered the picture for UNCG. 

Her fifth three up was her fifth three down. She and the Spartans dwindled the Tar Heel lead to just five, trailing 61-56 entering the fourth. A big factor in the game was the turnover margin. Coming into the night, the Tar Heels ranked seventh nationally in turnover margin at 8.62. However, UNCG gave the ball up just seven times through three quarters, compared to eight turnovers for North Carolina.

Almost like a broken record, the Tar Heels started the quarter strong, and then the Spartans came roaring back. Ultimately, their efforts weren’t enough as North Carolina fought off the upset hungry Spartans with stellar shooting down the stretch.

Graduate guard Lexi Donarski's scorching shooting in the second half was paramount for the Tar Heels. Donarski netted six threes on the night, and all five of her second half attempts. She led the Tar Heels in scoring with 22 points.

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“We’re looking to play together and get the shots we want to get, and not let the defense dictate what shots we get,” Donarski said. “So tonight was a great example of what we’ve been working on for the past few days, finding the open player and being unselfish.”

The Tar Heels will travel north for a top-25 bout with No. 17 UConn on Sunday at 5 p.m. in what will essentially be a home game away from home for the Huskies. The game will be played in Uncasville, Connecticut, which is where the WNBA’s Connecticut Sun play.

@BenMcC33

@dthsports | sports@dailytarheel.com