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Lexi Donarski's hot second-half shooting propels Tar Heels past UNCG

20231206_Sharon_w-basketball-vs-uncg-47-2-Enhanced-NR.jpg
UNC graduate guard Lexi Donarski (20) watches a free throw during the women’s basketball game against UNC Greensboro on Dec. 6, 2023 at Carmichael Arena. UNC won 81-66.

In the second half of UNC's 81-66 victory over UNC Greensboro on Wednesday, graduate guard Lexi Donarski shot five 3-pointers.

Each time, she released the basketball eloquently from her hands, it arched perfectly in the air down towards the basket. 

Donarski’s 22-point performance highlighted what was an incredible offensive showing the No. 24 Tar Heels against UNC Greensboro in Carmichael Arena. Six Tar Heels reached double figures and North Carolina's 51.6 percent from the field was a season-high.

On the other end, UNCG’s efforts did not go unnoticed, shooting 53.3 percent from downtown and keeping UNC on its toes — especially during the second quarter. UNCG came back in the second quarter, outscoring the Tar Heels 25-14. The Spartans' hot shooting made them seemingly unstoppable during that stretch, shooting 5-5 from three as guard Kennedy Simpson led the charge with 12 points in the frame.

“[UNCG] shot the crap out of the ball from three,” head coach Courtney Banghart said.

This challenge proved to be exactly what the Tar Heels needed in their stretch between the ACC/SEC challenge last week and the upcoming matchup against No. 17 UConn this Sunday. The Spartan’s offensive firepower kept the Tar Heels fighting for shots — something they remain focused on in practice. 

“On the offensive side, we’re looking to play together and to get the looks that we want to get and not let the defense dictate which shots we get, so tonight was a great example,” senior forward Alyssa Ustby said

Dictating shots was exactly what Donarski did all night long, going 75 percent from behind the arc on the night. And as UNC headed out of the locker room to begin the second half, it was Donarski who put those first points on the board with her silky smooth three to get the Tar Heels back on track. 

“It felt really good,” Donarski said. “As a team, we’ve been working on the exact shots that we all got all night."

Donarski, a transfer from Iowa State, demonstrated her value as a true two-way player. Despite her team-high 22 points, it wasn't Donarski's offensive performance that Banghart highlighted after the game.

“[I’ve been] really urging Lexi to lead on the floor with her defensive energy and accountability,” she said

During her time at Iowa State, Donarski was named the Big 12 All-Defensive team two years in a row. As a sophomore, she was also the 2022 Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year. If Wednesday night was any indication, her defensive IQ on the perimeter — coupled with her shot creation — makes her a lethal addition to the roster.

“Lexi has been working hard on moving without the basketball to get more looks and we’re doing a little bit better job of finding lanes for her,” Banghart said.

Donarski credited her teammates to her game-leading successes on Wednesday.

“The team is super unselfish,” she said. “And it’s really fun to play on."

@dthsports | sports@dailytarheel.com

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