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The Daily Tar Heel

Lack of discipline causes No. 20 UNC to fall to Virginia on the road

UNC head coach Courtney Banghart speaks to her team during a women’s basketball game in Carmichael Arena on Jan. 25, 2024.

After losing to Virginia, one word continued to come out of Courtney Banghart’s mouth: undisciplined. 

According to the head coach, the No. 20 UNC women’s basketball team’s Sunday afternoon 81-66 defeat boasts no great narrative. The Tar Heels were not sputtering and North Carolina’s sense of purpose never wavered. For the seasoned coach, there were no tell-tale signs of an eventual collapse. It just came down to discipline. 

After drawing within three points of the Cavaliers following a buzzer-beater jumper from senior guard Deja Kelly, the Tar Heels looked to battle in the fourth to pull off a late victory. And while North Carolina held Virginia close through the first four minutes of the fourth quarter, the team gradually became undisciplined — not making free throws, committing senseless fouls or giving up simple turnovers. 

“There’s an element of discipline that they didn’t have,” Banghart said. “And it might have only been a few times for Alyssa [Ustby], a few times for Reniya [Kelly], a few times for Indya [Nivar] but they add up over time.”

With a little over eight minutes left in the game and UNC down by three, sophomore guard Indya Nivar ran to the basket desperate for an offensive rebound. She collided with the back of Virginia’s Jillian Brown. 

The whistle blew, signaling Nivar’s fifth foul. 

“She got an offensive rebounding foul when she had four fouls," Banghart said. "It’s just undisciplined and so she puts us in that position. Again, it comes down to discipline.”

Following another Virginia 3-pointer 30 seconds later, senior forward Alyssa Ustby drove to the basket. With 10 seconds erased from the shot clock, Ustby attempted a layup and came up empty — a miss early during UNC’s possession to give the ball right back to UVA. 

After a Virginia offensive rebound, the Cavaliers responded with another three for a nine-point lead. From there, the Tar Heels were never able to respond. 

“In the fourth quarter, when you’re down, you’re trying to get a quick score and so sometimes that sacrifice is a better look,” Ustby said. “So that’s just a tough thing to balance."

The final blow came five minutes later.

Following two Virginia layups to take a 12-point lead, Ustby attempted to set a screen. Her momentum caused Virginia’s Alexia Smith to lose her balance. Smith stumbled and the referee’s whistle blew, signaling North Carolina’s 17th turnover and Ustby’s fourth foul. On the next possession, Ustby fouled out entirely.

The Tar Heels have made these mistakes before. They have taken bad shots, missed countless free throws or gotten themselves into foul trouble.

During an early season contest with Davidson, North Carolina prevailed despite missing nine free throws. In their last game, the Tar Heels’ late-game scoring drought and bad shot selection led to a Miami surge but they prevailed once again with the help of the starting five. 

The culmination of all these mistakes on Sunday proved too much to handle, and unlike other games, North Carolina lacked the discipline to get back on track.

“As the game kept going, we just kind of got a little complacent,” first-year guard Reniya Kelly said. “We really didn’t do what we wanted to do. We let them [the Cavaliers] do what they wanted to do.”


@dthsports |

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