Experience goes a long way.
It’s why head coach Courtney Banghart trusted the upperclassmen in her huddle to respond after Virginia made it a one-point game going into the final quarter. Their leadership and wisdom means she only has to make minor adjustments. From there, they work out the rest.
No. 23 North Carolina’s seniors carried the Tar Heels in the fourth quarter battle to a 81-68 win over Virginia on Sunday. The impact of guard Deja Kelly, forward Alyssa Ustby and forward Anya Poole in the final 10 minutes squashed UVA’s comeback push, combining for 51 points by the end of the night.
UNC had a 14-point lead — its largest of the game — in the second quarter, but the Cavaliers managed to chip away at that deficit throughout the third. While shots started to fall for Virginia, North Carolina became stagnant and struggled to convert on its opportunities.
In that third quarter alone, the Tar Heels shot only 43 percent from the free throw line, struggled to keep the Cavaliers out of the lane and were out-rebounded 12-10. Virginia ended the quarter with a 7-1 run in the last two and a half minutes.
Still, Banghart wasn’t too worried about her team.
“They show great toughness,” she said. “So they’re just not rattled by things like that, right?”
She was right. From the start of the final quarter, her seniors got to work.
Through a cluster of defenders in the lane, Kelly found junior center Maria Gakdeng for an open layup. On the next play, Kelly stripped the ball away from UVA’s Camryn Taylor, dribbled the length of the court and weaved around her defender for a transition basket, drawing a foul.