By R.L. Bynum
CHAPEL HILL — The model of efficiency through two games is Carolina’s do-everything wing Alyssa Ustby.
The athletic junior, who showed in the offseason that her talents include kicking field goals at Kenan Stadium, said she was “a little banged up” after her September participation on the United States three-on-three team in Romania and summer workouts.
That limited her in the preseason and led to minutes restrictions. She’s making the most of every minute. Ustby scored 14 points in 18 minutes Saturday as No. 12 Carolina (2–0) took control in the second quarter and cruised to a 75–48 victory over TCU (1–1).
“Just to preserve myself for the rest of the season, we just took it easy,” Ustby said, adding that she had no specific injury and she hopes that was the last game with minute limits.
Through two games, Ustby has 33 points in 36 minutes.
“I don’t know, I’m just out there having fun,” Ustby said. “I give a lot of credit to my teammates because they make great passes to me right into the basket, so they make my job easy.”
UNC coach Courtney Banghart said that she’s pretty sure the restrictions will end starting with Wednesday’s game against South Carolina State.
“We’re just a better team with Alyssa in,” Banghart said. “It’s been hard because she’s been coming back from some soreness. So, we’ve been slowly bringing her back. And it’s really hard; it’s hard for her, and it’s hard for me because we just like her on the floor. But her efficiency, she knows she has to be efficient because of her restriction, and I know that as we lift that, she’ll still be efficient.”
The Tar Heels are weathering other early-season challenges, with only nine available players for the second consecutive game as Teonni Key, Ariel Young and Kayla McPherson all didn’t play. But all nine scored, with five in double figures.
Point guard Deja Kelly didn’t shoot well (4 of 12 from the floor) but was productive otherwise on both ends of the floor with 12 points, seven assists and a career-high-tying four steals. With Kennedy Todd-Williams adding 14 points, three rebounds and two steals, the Heels had no trouble.
Kelly is from San Antonio and said, “it always feels good to beat up on a Texas school,” so the win was huge for her.
“I know that I’m not just a scorer; I’m a playmaker guard,” said Kelly, who added that her left ankle is doing better and will benefit from having Sunday off. “So, I’m trying to find ways to impact the game in a variety of ways.”
UNC had trouble penetrating the Horned Frogs’ matchup zone for much of the first half, and going 2 of 10 from 3-point range didn’t help.
“Yeah, we tried to break it down; we tried to kind of be surgical as opposed to aggressive, and once we sped up [we played well],” Banghart said.
Carolina finally found its offensive rhythm when Paulina Paris’ jumper ended a nearly five-minute scoring drought with 6:36 left in the first half, and good defense led to more offense. That started an 11–0 run after TCU took a 17–15 lead into the second quarter. Sophmore Destiny Adams had a layup and a block during that run.
“Defensively, our positioning led to deflections, contested shots, which led to some steals,” Banghart said. “We were able to ratchet up our defense, and playing faster on offense allowed us to get more open looks as well. Really, it came down to our pace. Everyone plays zone a little bit differently, so you feel it out a little bit.”
UNC held the Horned Frogs scoreless for more than eight second-quarter minutes and led 30–24 at halftime.
“It’s just one of those things you got to get used to it,” Ustby said of TCU’s zone. “Once you have a couple of possessions against that zone, then get comfortable, and you can find where the gaps are that you can score from and the sequence of passes that you need.”
The Tar Heels kept up that momentum by opening the second half with a 10–3 run, which Anya Poole sandwiched with layups. Poole went to the bench shortly afterward, though, with four fouls.
“Defensively, we gave ourselves a chance to win throughout the game, which was huge,” said Banghart, noting that Eva Hodgson had an excellent all-around game despite also not shooting well (1 of 6). “I think for what Deja and Eva did, not shoot well and impacting the game in so many other ways, that’s growth for our team.”
Hodgson contributed seven points, seven rebounds and four assists.
For the second game in a row, a reserve scored in double figures; this time it was Adams, who had 10 points, seven rebounds, a block and a steal.
“Destiny 2.0 is a better version than Destiny 1.0,” Banghart said. “She took a little bit of a slow start, and she relied so much on her athleticism last year.”
Two Todd-Williams layups and a Kelly 3-point play punctuated a 17–0 UNC run that shoved the lead to 57–30 entering the fourth quarter. Kelly scored seven points during that run.
TCU went from scoring 17 first-quarter points to combining for 13 in the middle two quarters.
TCU guard Tomi Taiwo, an Iowa transfer, scored all her team-high 15 points in the second half.
NOTES — Carolina plays an 11 a.m. home game Wednesday against South Carolina State (ACC Network Extra/ESPN3). The Bulldogs, 4–25 last season, are 0–3 record after a 71–35 Monday loss at East Carolina, a 50–41 Thursday defeat at Queens University and a 61–35 Saturday setback at St. Thomas. … UNC has won 17 consecutive regular-season nonconference games, the longest streak since winning 42 in a row from Dec. 12, 2004, to Dec. 2, 2007. … UNC is 25–2 under Banghart (including 17–1 at home) in nonconference play. … Carolina is 3–0 all-time against TCU.
No. 12 UNC 75, TCU 48
UNC lineup combinations
|16||Wednesday||93–25||South Carolina State||Home||3–0|
|20||Sunday||76–65||James Madison||Harrisonburg, Va.||4–0|
|Phil Knight Invitational|
|24||Thursday||85–79||No. 18 Oregon||Portland||5–0|
|27||Sunday||73–64||No. 5 Iowa State||Portland||6–0|
|December||ACC/Big Ten Challenge|
|1||Thursday||6 p.m.||No. 6 Indiana||Bloomington, Ind.||Big Ten Network|
|7||Wednesday||6 p.m.||UNCW||Home||ACCNX (ESPN3)|
|11||Sunday||1 p.m.||Wofford||Home||ACCNX (ESPN3)|
|16||Friday||6 p.m.||South Carolina – Upstate||Home||ACCNX (ESPN3)|
|20||Tuesday||7 p.m.||No. 22 Michigan||Charlotte||ESPN2|
|ACC season begins|
|29||Thursday||8 p.m.||Florida State||Home||RSN|
|1||Sunday||4 p.m.||No. 11 Virginia Tech||Blacksburg, Va.||ACCN|
|5||Thursday||6 p.m.||Miami||Coral Gables, Fla.||ACCNX (ESPN3)|
|8||Sunday||4 p.m.||No. 7 Notre Dame||Home||ACCN|
|12||Thursday||7 p.m.||Virginia||Charlottesville, Va.||ACCNX (ESPN3)|
|15||Sunday||3:30||No. 13 N.C. State||Home||ESPN|
|22||Sunday||4 p.m.||Georgia Tech||Home||ACCN|
|26||Thursday||6 p.m.||Pittsburgh||Pittsburgh||ACCNX (ESPN3)|
|5||Sunday||Noon||No. 10 Louisville||Louisville||ESPN2|
|9||Thursday||7 p.m.||Syracuse||Syracuse||ACCNX (ESPN3)|
|12||Sunday||Noon||Boston College||Home||ACCNX (ESPN3)|
|16||Thursday||8 p.m.||No. 13 N.C. State||Raleigh||ACCN|
|19||Sunday||4 p.m.||Wake Forest||Home||ACCN|
|23||Thursday||8 p.m.||No. 11 Virginia Tech||Home||RSN|
|1–5||Wednesday–Sunday||TBA||TBA||Greensboro||ACCN Wed.-Sat.; final on ESPN or ESPN2|
Photo courtesy of UNC Athletics Communications