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The Daily Tar Heel

UNC women's basketball falls to Boston College, 78-74

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UNC junior guard Deja Kelley (25) shoots during the women's basketball game against Boston College on Sunday, Feb. 12, 2023 in Carmichael Area. The Tar Heels beat the Eagles, 73-55.

The North Carolina women's basketball team (18-11, 10-7 ACC) fell to Boston College (12-18, 4-13 ACC), 78-74, in Chestnut Hill, Mass. on Thursday night.

In junior BC transfer Maria Gakdeng's return to Conte Forum, the center posted 16 points and 10 rebounds for UNC. Sophomore guard Indya Nivar had 16 points off the bench. Guard JoJo Lacey dropped a game-high 23 points on 5-for-8 3-point shooting to help Boston College snap a 10-game losing streak.

Gakdeng knifed through the 2-3 zone defense for UNC’s first two buckets, using her length for an early block and offensive board. However, the Eagles came out shooting 5-8 from the floor, including 3-4 from beyond the arc, forcing a quick timeout from head coach Courtney Banghart within the game’s first four minutes.

“We were really careless with our shooting,” Banghart said. “We didn’t knock down shots and it’s hard to win if you’re going to shoot 19 percent from three.”

Out of the huddle, graduate guard Lexi Donarski cashed in a three to improve the Tar Heels’ previous 2-for-8 clip. Lacey countered with her third triple of the contest, but the Eagles began to cool off as North Carolina’s defense clamped down and fueled a second Donarski bucket.

Despite grabbing thirteen boards in the quarter, UNC amassed a two-minute scoring drought to close out the quarter down seven. The Tar Heels shot just 28 percent against a Boston College team that previously allowed opponents to convert 46 percent of their attempts, a bottom-20 figure nationally.

With the shot clock expiring, senior guard Alyssa Ustby found her stroke from distance to open the second quarter with her second three of the season. After missing her first six shots, senior guard Deja Kelly followed suit to collect her first three points. Senior forward Alexandra Zelaya halted prior offensive difficulty by converting an easy runner off the bench to spur a 5-0 run for the Tar Heels.

However, North Carolina trailed 35-29 after Ustby’s put back was waved off at the buzzer. The team committed seven turnovers, matching their game totals from the previous two contests. 

Entering quarter three, North Carolina conceded a pair of Boston College layups that necessitated a premature timeout by Banghart. Gakdeng entered double figures, finding her own misses and deterring Boston College in the paint to be the bright spot for the Tar Heels on both ends of the floor. Nivar netted back-to-back layups for nine off the bench, forcing Boston College to regroup with a whistle. Following Ustby’s fourth foul, the Eagles strung together seven unanswered points to safeguard an 11-point advantage. 

A dramatic final 15 minutes found the starters returning to the scorer’s table. Ustby manufactured feeds to Gakdeng and Nivar, allowing the duo to add to their double-figure efforts. First-year guard and former walk-on Sydney Barker’s first ACC career points could not have come at a better time, swishing a long-ball that added to a 7-0 Tar Heel run.

“Whenever my name was called, I just had to be ready and I think just try and go in and play as hard as I can and play together with the girls out there,” Barker said.

Lacey knocked down another three, but committed two consecutive fouls that took her out of the contest and allowed Barker to knock down another clutch 15-footer. In a 17-3 spurt, North Carolina continued to roll, coming up with clutch steals and urgent drives from Nivar and sophomore forward Teonni Key. After the Eagles missed a pair of free throws, Barker grabbed a board and remained down on the floor, triggering an officiating intermission.

After trading free throws, Kelly, corralling an Eagles inbound, allowed Nivar to reach the stripe and bring UNC within one possession. With the clock ticking down,UNC was unable to surmount an 18-point deficit in what would’ve been the largest comeback in the Banghart era.

“I think this particular version of our team is still working through what happens when adversity hits inside the lines,” Banghart said. “We had some guys that were a little careless with possessions, we forced some shots, we got shot hesitant.”

Ahead of the ACC tournament, North Carolina will look to rebound with a rivalry season finale against Duke in Chapel Hill on March 3.

@moiramartin010

@dthsports | sports@dailytarheel.com

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