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The Daily Tar Heel

UNC women's basketball falls to Duke, 68-60, in overtime battle

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UNC senior guard/forward Alyssa Utsby (1) attempting to rebound after a free-throw at the women’s basketball game versus Duke on Sunday, Feb. 11, 2024 in Cameron Indoor Stadium.

DURHAM, N.C. — In an overtime battle, North Carolina (15-9, 7-5) fell to Duke (16-7, 8-4), 68-60, on Sunday at Cameron Indoor Stadium. 

Falling into foul trouble and unable to maintain offensive consistency, the Tar Heels extended their losing skid to four straight games. 

“We weren’t good enough,” head coach Courtney Banghart said. “We had a chance to win it there. Then, in overtime, they made more plays than us.” 

In the first five minutes of action, first-year guard Reniya Kelly knocked down a jumper followed by a wide-open three from the wing, leading UNC to an 11-4 run. However, senior guard Deja Kelly, an offensive leader for the Tar Heels, quickly picked up two fouls – one on each end of the court – after the first media timeout. With Deja Kelly on the bench, the Blue Devils chipped away at the deficit, tying the game with less than a minute to go in the first quarter. 

On her way to the basket, sophomore guard Indya Nivar was fouled and sent to the line. After airballing her first free throw attempt, Nivar knocked down her second shot, bringing North Carolina in front to end the first quarter, 13-12. 

Despite some offensive struggles and costly turnovers, UNC managed to stay ahead, leading 19-14 by the under-five mark of the second quarter. As Duke found ways to break down the North Carolina zone, first-year Delaney Thomas and sophomore Taina Mair led the Blue Devils’ second-quarter scoring effort with a combined 10 points. The Tar Heels held on to their lead at the half, 26-25, despite shooting only 32 percent from the field and going 2-7 from the 3-point line. 

Deja Kelly found her rhythm early in the second half, leading the UNC charge for an 8-0 run. She continued to explode on the offensive side of the court, totaling 11 points by the end of the third quarter. The senior guard worked in tandem with senior forward Alyssa Ustby to take control of the lane, beating the Blue Devils to the basket in transition and forcing fouls. 

A stagnant UNC offense allowed Duke to make it a six-point game with 6:28 remaining in regulation, forcing North Carolina to call a timeout. Highlighted by a 3-pointer from Duke’s first-year guard Oluchi Okananwa, the Blue Devils soon executed a 9-2 run to make it a three-point game by the under-five timeout. Then, Ustby picked up her fourth foul with less than four minutes to go to send Thomas to the charity stripe, allowing Duke to tie it, 48-48. 

“They got a lot of boards, they were ripping the ball out of our hands and getting put-backs,” Deja Kelly said. “I think that obviously slowed down our momentum because I thought we did a great job of getting out in transition more in the third quarter, but not getting stops, you can’t push as fast.” 

Graduate guard Lexi Donarski responded to the pressure, knocking down a jumper and getting the and-one to put UNC back on top. However, while attempting to block a shot, junior center Maria Gakdeng picked up her fourth foul. Okananwa tied it at the line, 53-53, with 1:30 to go. 

With the game on the line, Reniya Kelly stripped the ball away from Duke as the Blue Devils attempted to get a shot up in transition. On the next UNC possession, Ustby missed a shot-clock buzzer-beater. 

Back-to-back UNC fouls allowed Duke to take the lead in the early minutes of overtime. Ustby fouled out as the Blue Devils continued to build the lead from there, taking a seven-point lead with less than a minute to go. After Donarski was called for a foul on her way to the rim, UNC was forced to intentionally foul and Duke officially iced its win from the free-throw line. 

“We’ve got to get better late,” Banghart said. “Or else this is a feeling we’ll continue to feel.” 

North Carolina will look to get back into the win column at home against Pittsburgh on Thursday at 6 p.m.

@carolinewills03

@dthsports | sports@dailytarheel.com

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