By R.L. Bynum
CHAPEL HILL — It took only six seconds for Kennedy Todd-Williams to score the first of many North Carolina layups on a dominating evening against overmatched South Carolina State.
She nearly made it a historic night.
The only question for the bigger, faster and more talented Tar Heels was whether they could learn anything from one of those name-your-score nights. When the turnover-forcing layup-fest was over, the Tar Heels (4-0), as expected, coasted to a 98–28 victory Thursday night at Carmichael Arena.
“It was hard to get much from that game,” UNC coach Courtney Banghart said. “Anytime you can have a different uniform on the other team, it allows your young guys to just have a different experience.”
It was UNC’s largest margin of victory since beating New Orleans by a school-record 83 points in 2013 (124–41) and largest home margin since beating N.C. Central by 77 (109–32) in 2007. The Tar Heels, who scored more than 90 points in four consecutive games for the first time since November 2007, dribbled out the final seconds when it could have reached 100 points. (There are several other statistical nuggets UNC women’s play-by-play voice Matt Krause posted about in this Twitter thread.)
Las Vegas oddsmakers underestimated the Tar Heels by making them 46.5-point favorites. Janelle Bailey covered that spread for Carolina on a 3-pointer with 5:49 left in the third quarter to put UNC up 60-13 and the Heels won by 70.
Wait. A 3-pointer by your 6-4 center? Yes, it was that kind of night.
Todd-Williams (shown driving to the basket in the top photo) was one assist shy of earning the first triple-double in program history with 14 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists. And she only played 21 minutes. There was at least one missed layup by a teammate that could have provided that 10th assist.
“I like to share the ball and I’m a versatile player,” said Todd-Williams, whose nine assists were the most by a UNC freshman since Leah Metcalf had that total against Lehigh on Jan. 5, 2002. “I like to be on the boards, get a bucket when I need to, or find my teammates.”
Todd-Williams had one triple-double during her senior season at Jacksonville High School. She had missed much of her junior season after an ACL tear and her first game back was Jan. 24, 2020, against rival Northside High School. She collected 22 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists.
“Oh my gosh. I love Toddy,” said freshman point guard Deja Kelly, who scored a game-high 16 points in only 13 minutes. “She’s a beast. She brings a little bit of everything to this team. If you need a stop, she’s got it. Todd is going to be a problem in ACC.”
You won’t have any problem convincing the Bulldogs, who had to deal with her at so many levels, including defense. She also got four steals.
If you watched Scottie Pippen during his NBA career, you’ll notice a lot of the same qualities in the 5-11 Todd-Williams. She didn’t realize that until Banghart told her during the summer and Kennedy-Williams started watching Pippen’s video highlights.
“I can see that,” Todd-Williams said. “You always need a Scottie Pippen. What’s better than that? I compare my game to him — super long and can share the ball. And I can also look for [my shot] as well.”
Todd-Williams adds that she’s a better shooter than Pippen but Banghart says that’s only because the coach told her as much.
“Todd is a gym rat,” Banghart said. “She’s a coach’s delight in that way. She’s in the gym all the time. She takes great care of her body. She’s a film shark, I mean, she’s always with film. So, anything good that happens to Kennedy Todd-Williams, the entire team is happy because she puts the time in. She’s just a great teammate.”
All five starters scored in double figures, with Bailey collecting 15 points and 9 rebounds, Petra Holešínská scoring 13 and dishing out a career-high seven assists and Malu Tshitenge pitching in 11 points.
UNC was efficient, assisting on 27 of the 39 field goals, outscoring South Carolina State 50–8 inside, 19–2 on second-chance points and 16–3 on fast-break points.
Carolina was already in name-the-score territory when it forced seven Bulldogs turnovers in an 18-0 second-quarter run. There was an odd fourth-quarter stretch when UNC went scoreless for nearly three minutes, then put together a 9-0 run in two minutes.
If there was any weakness, it was early 3-point shooting. But UNC found the range, going from 2 of 8 in the first half to 8 of 13 in the second half
South Carolina State (0-3), which went 3-27 last season, lost its 15th consecutive game. The Bulldogs shot 17% from the floor when they could get a shot off. Many times, they didn’t as they committed multiple shot-clock violations.
For many stronger opponents, this sort of game is when they play the reserves who don’t normally play. For a 12-deep UNC team with little drop in talent when it goes to the bench, there was no relief for the Bulldogs.
The Tar Heels have been impressive, but it’s difficult to assess how good they are based on their COVID-19-altered schedule. Power Five schools that they were set to face gave way to mid-major schools from Virginia and the Carolinas.
“You had to do what made sense given the pandemic and that’s OK. We’re a basketball team; we’ll play whoever’s on our schedule,” said Banghart, who originally scheduled four power five nonconference opponents.
She expects to be able to toughen up the schedule more next season with a game against Maryland and hopefully matchups with Tennessee, Auburn and Alabama in addition to an opponent in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, which was canceled for this season.
Short of High Point, ranked No. 296 by Massey, which led UNC early by 21 points before losing by 25, the Tar Heels haven’t been challenged. By the Massey standard, Radford (251) has been UNC’s toughest opponent, followed by the Panthers, UNCG (302) and South Carolina State (355).
That’s about to change in a hurry.
The Tar Heels (27) welcome Charlotte (191) to Chapel Hill at 4 p.m. Sunday (ACC Network) for their final nonconference game before visiting Wake Forest (51) on Dec. 10 and No. 5 Louisville (9) on Dec. 13.
Charlotte is 0-3 but played two ACC teams well: The 49ers lost to Clemson 80-73 on Monday and to Wake Forest 78-75 on Thursday.
If Carolina is going to keep winning against the tougher opponents, Banghart says that the terrific defense her team played Thursday will have to continue.
“We just have to continue to get this young team to understand ball defense, gap defense and help defense and they’re growing in that area for sure,” Banghart said. “If we’re not good on defense in the conference, we won’t be good. If we’re not good at defense, we will start losing and then they’ll get better at it.”
So far, that defense hasn’t let up a bit.
UNC 98, South Carolina State 28
Photos courtesy of UNC Athletic Communications