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UNC women's hoops falls to No. 17 Virginia Tech in overtime, 70-61

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UNC graduate student guard Lexi Donarski (20) dribbles the ball during the women’s basketball game against Virginia Tech in Carmichael Arena on Sunday, Feb. 4, 2024.

The No. 24 North Carolina women’s basketball team (15-8, 7-4 ACC) fell to No. 17 Virginia Tech (18-4, 9-2 ACC), 70-61, in overtime on Sunday afternoon at Carmichael Arena, extending its losing streak to three games.

After a first half that featured scoring droughts and poor shooting from both North Carolina and Virginia Tech, both teams started to find their shots and traded buckets throughout the game. After tying the game to send it to overtime, North Carolina was unable to gain momentum as the Hokies pulled away.

Virginia Tech’s Elizabeth Kitley got off to a quick start for the Hokies, scoring their first four points of the game and swatting away junior center Maria Gakdeng’s layup. Missed shots, fouls and turnovers characterized the opening few minutes for the Tar Heels, who were struggling to keep up with the fast-paced Virginia Tech offense.

However, the Hokies slowed down, and North Carolina was able to cut into the lead after a jumper from graduate guard Lexi Donarski made it 7-6. On the next possession, Donarski hit a jumper to give the Tar Heels their first lead of the game. Donarski’s hot hand continued on the next UNC offensive possession, hitting a three from the wing. 

UNC started the second quarter just like the first, with a string of missed shots and turnovers. The Tar Heels didn’t score until just under the six-minute mark, which cut the Virginia Tech lead to six. However, the Hokies went on a three minute scoring drought in the middle of the second quarter, keeping the Tar Heels in the game, down 20-16 with three minutes left in the quarter. 

A buzzer beater from Virginia Tech’s Matilda Ekh put the Hokies up 26-20 at halftime. 

Increased defensive pressure forced two Virginia Tech turnovers, including a steal and shot clock violation. Despite this, North Carolina was only able to muster two points on turnovers in the third quarter, allowing the Hokies to regain the lead off of a triple from the corner from Cayla King. 

“Obviously we haven’t been lights out from three,” head coach Courtney Banghart said. “Alyssa’s not, you know, her guys sagging and she’s kinda gone away from her mid range a bit. So that puts a lot of pressure on your offense, so we sort of got into attack mode better in the second half.”

The Tar Heels and Hokies traded baskets throughout the beginning of the fourth quarter, deadlocked at 44 with just over six minutes to play. 

North Carolina switched to a 3-2 zone with under a minute to play, forcing a turnover and a tough finish from sophomore guard Indya Nivar tied the game at 54 on the fastbreak. After getting a stop on defense, senior forward Alyssa Ustby was called for a charge on the fastbreak attempt with one second remaining. Amoore’s 3-point attempt was no good at the buzzer, sending the game to overtime. 

In overtime, the Hokies hit a three from the corner, but senior guard Deja Kelly answered with a jumper to cut the lead to one. Amoore hit a three from the wing after a defensive breakdown from the Tar Heels, who were in zone once again.

“I thought we did enough defensively to put us in the spot that we wanted to be in,” Donarski said. 

After a UNC turnover, Ekh then hit a three of her own to give the Hokies a seven-point lead. Despite good looks from beyond the arc, North Carolina was unable to make a comeback, losing 70-61.  

The Tar Heels next take on Duke on Feb. 11 at Cameron Indoor Stadium at 2 p.m.

“I think that this is something we really have to lean into and individually really look inward this week,” Kelly said. “That’s what it will come down to as much as we have been playing together, pretty well, we need individuals to play better.”

@mdmaynard74

@dthsports | sports@dailytarheel.com

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