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The Daily Tar Heel

Preview: Keys to No. 24 UNC women's basketball's ACC bout against No. 17 Virginia Tech

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UNC junior forward/guard Alyssa Ustby (1) goes up for a layup over her defender during the womens basketball game against Virginia Tech on Thursday, Feb. 23, 2023 at Carmichael Arena. UNC lost 59-61.

Coming off a shocking double-digit upset to Virginia last Sunday and a loss to No. 5 N.C. State on Thursday night, the Tar Heels are looking for a major rebound to get back on track against another ACC opponent.

The No. 24 North Carolina women’s basketball team (15-7, 6-3) will take on No. 17 Virginia Tech (17-4, 8-2) on Sunday afternoon at Carmichael Arena, hoping to get back in the win column.

Virginia Tech beat UNC in its last matchup last season in a nail-biter at the Cassell Coliseum in Blacksburg, Va. North Carolina is looking to change the outcome this season. Currently, these two squads are in the top half of the ACC rankings, but UNC has dropped due to recent ACC struggles. This game will prove to be an important top-25 matchup as seeding for the postseason looms close. However, it will be hard to stop the momentum of Virginia Tech, who is coming into this game on a four-game winning streak, all coming from wins against ACC opponents.

Here are two keys for UNC if they hope to win on Sunday and start the last month of regular season play strong:

UNC needs to rebound better

The Tar Heels will need to get more rebounds against the Hokies if they want to keep this game close. UNC is averaging 39.5 per game this season, but failed to get within eight of that mark against Miami and Virginia and only managed 35 in their loss to NC State. 

With Virginia Tech averaging 40.7 rebounds a game and a margin of 8.5 more than their opponents, the Tar Heels will have to be more aggressive from the tipoff if they want to create more second-chance scoring opportunities with additional offensive rebounds.

North Carolina needs to hone in on defending Elizabeth Kitley from the rim, who leads the team with 11.3 rebounds per game. Kitley became the ACC’s all-time rebounding leader in December so if they fail to contain her early, they might be facing a large deficit before halftime. 

Contain Kitley

Not only is Kitley a threat for rebounding, she is an even bigger threat for scoring buckets. A 10-time ACC Player of the Week honoree, the graduate center has proven to be a force all over the court. The Hokies are averaging 78.1 points per game and a big reason why is because of Kitley. 

She leads the team with 22.4 points per game, second in the entire conference. She also ranks second in the ACC in blocks, accounting for 44 so far in the 2023-24 season. 

A true contender to three-peat as ACC Player of the Year, the Tar Heels have to find ways to either double team Kitley or to only allow her to take tough shots in uncomfortable spots on the floor. In a nutshell, preventing Kitley from making a major impact rebounding, scoring and blocking will make UNC’s night much easier and give them a better chance of taking home the ranked win at home.

@anna_laible

@dthsports | sports@dailytarheel.com

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