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Transfers Lexi Donarski and Indya Nivar show growth in UNC's upset over Louisville

UNC graduate guard Lexi Donarski (20) dribbles the ball at the women’s basketball game versus Louisville on Sunday, Jan. 21, 2024 in Carmichael Arena. No. 23 UNC beat No. 13 Louisville 79-68.

At UNC's halftime shootaround, Lexi Donarski stood in the corner and put up shots for five straight minutes.

After scoring the first 10 points for No. 23 North Carolina in a 79-68 win over No. 13 Louisville, the Iowa State transfer didn't score for the remainder of the half.

During the team shootaround on Sunday afternoon, Donarski only took shots from beyond the arc. Some were off the dribble. Others were catch-and-shoot, with all being fed by first-year guard Sydney Barker.

Donarski was just one example of the many transfers who stepped up for UNC on Sunday. The Iowa State transfer, alongside Stanford transfer Indya Nivar and Boston College transfer Maria Gakdeng, combined for 31 points.

A pure 3-point specialist, Donarski has been in a shooting slump as of late. In the four games leading up to Sunday, Donarski had gone 5-21 from downtown — just 23.8 percent.

But, shooters shoot. And against the Cardinals, that’s exactly what Donarski did, making her first two 3-point attempts of the game against the Cardinals and scoring the first 10 points of the game.

“It does feel good to see the ball going in,” Donarski said. “We’ve been working on it a lot. I mean, we get a lot of shots up together and individually every single day outside of practice."

However, head coach Courtney Banghart knows that Donarski’s impact goes further than just hitting shots. Banghart said Donarski’s ability to play positionally sound basketball has opened up the court for the rest of the team, enabling them to exploit open passing lanes and execute backside plays.

Following UNC's win on Sunday, Donarski credited the team to putting her and its other shooters in great positions.

“The shots were coming off a ball screen of some type of action that we ran to get a good open look from," Donarski said. "So our execution was really good.”

It wasn’t just Donarski who showed how valuable the transfer portal could be, though. Nivar, who came off the bench and played 18 minutes, was vital to UNC’s defensive intensity while also hitting key shots down the stretch.

During a 9-0 Tar Heel run midway through the third quarter, Nivar jumped a Louisville pass and turned it into quick transition points for North Carolina.

“Indya’s progression has been really honest,” Banghart said. “It’s been really direct and it’s been consistent."

Nivar’s development has been quick. Just six games ago in the Tar Heels’ ACC opener against Clemson, the sophomore struggled to have an impact off the bench.

“The first ACC game, she was negative-18,” Banghart said. “I told her, I said, ‘Listen, you can’t be negative-18 in a win, right? But you’re doing things the right way.’”

Doing things the right way paid off, and against the Cardinals, Nivar looked confident. In UNC's ACC opener, the Tigers outscored the Tar Heels by 7 while Nivar was on the court — UNC outscored Louisville by 11 when she was on the floor Sunday.

In the ever changing landscape of the transfer portal, Donarski and Nivar display two significant benefits of the portal, and will be key in North Carolina’s success for the remainder of the season. 

"Believe me, I wanted Indya and Maria and Lexi to be as good as they are now in October," Banghart said. "But I’m much happier that they’re where they are now.”


@dthsports |

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