By R.L. Bynum
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — Playing with fire by giving up a big first-half deficit for the third consecutive game, No. 6 North Carolina finally got burned by No. 5 Indiana’s red-hot shooting.
With the Hoosiers making 68.8% of their 3-point attempts in the first three quarters, they shot down any hope of another comeback. Indiana rolled to an 87–63 women’s basketball victory Thursday at Assembly Hall.
The kerosene that made it worse was Carolina’s poorest defense of the season. Defense was the catalyst for the Tar Heels (6–1) in most of their earlier wins, but it was their downfall in front of a spirited crowd of 5,939 in the final ACC-Big Ten Challenge.
UNC coach Courtney Banghart said the inability to defend well was the big difference between this game and the victorious rallies from first-half deficits of 12 against No. 19 Oregon and 17 against No. 8 Iowa State.
“We didn’t play very well at all,” Banghart said. “We didn’t respond well; I didn’t like the shots that we took. Defensively, we just didn’t play with the toughness that you have to play with in this environment. So hopefully, we can learn from it because we’ll have more environments like this because they’ve earned those.”
Indiana (8–0) was relentless from outside the arc, shooting much better there (53.4% for the game after going 1 of 6 in the fourth quarter) than on 2-point tries (47.6%), as five Hoosiers scored 3s, including four from Sara Scalia (12 points) and Sydney Parris (23 points) and two from Yarden Garzon.
“I never feel like we’re out of it with this group; I just don’t,” Banghart said. “They are willing to adjust. They play hard. They’ve got a lot of spurtability as a group. But it was their night and definitely not ours, and that’s a bad combination.”
UNC also shot pretty well, 50% from 3-point range, but not with the volume to match Indiana (seven compared to 12 for the Hoosiers). Combining that with the inside punch from Mackenzie Holmes (25 points) led to the Tar Heels’ humbling first loss of the season.
Sixty of Indiana’s points were either inside or from outside the arc as the Hoosiers easily overcame playing without star guard Grace Berger, who is out indefinitely with a knee injury,
“We didn’t guard the arc,” Banghart said. “We didn’t guard the paint. We didn’t guard penetration. We didn’t guard connected. We were just uncharacteristically not good on that end.
“We were late; we didn’t jump to the ball well,” she said. “We didn’t guard the guard switches at all very well. We didn’t guard the ball screen well. They were able to pick us apart with ball screens and without ball screens, all of it.”
Rough shooting nights for Deja Kelly (3 of 12 for 11 points) and Alyssa Ustby (4 of 15 for 8 points) also made it tough for UNC to stay with Indiana. Kennedy Todd-Williams scored four of the Tar Heels’ 3-pointers and led them with 20 points to tie her career-high she scored six games earlier.
Indiana played physically against Ustby, as she missed shots that she would normally make.
“I think a lot of our guys took contested shots,” Banghart said. “And I don’t think we need to take contested shots in the first 10 seconds in the shot clock as much as we did. So I don’t think we made them guard.”
Indiana gave Kelly extra attention, and that made creating offense tough for her even though she had seven assists (against only one turnover).
“They’re bigger, but I think personally they kind of sped me up with ball screens with their hard hedge,” said Kelly, who, like Eva Hodgson, played all 40 minutes. “They really wanted the ball out in my hands, and they were doing whatever they could to do it. And I think that, especially in the first half, I didn’t make the reads off of it. I made better reads off of them in the second half. But obviously, it just came down to overall collective team effort.”
Three-pointers by Kelly and Todd-Williams to start the game helped UNC score the game’s first seven points, but Indiana scored the next 13 to seize a six-point lead, and the Tar Heels never led after that.
“We started hitting shots, but I think we gave up a lot of open lanes for them, which made them think the basket was big,” Todd-Williams said. “And I think that kind of led to the lead, and then we weren’t converting on the offensive end.”
A Hodgson 3 and two free throws sliced the UNC deficit to 1, but a 7–2 Hoosiers run to end the opening quarter gave them a 27–21 edge.
Indiana led 49–33 at halftime after making 8 of 12 3-point attempts.
UNC cut its deficit to 13 twice in the third quarter, but a Garzon 3-pointer at the buzzer gave the Hoosiers a 72–53 lead entering the final quarter. A 6–0 run early in the fourth quarter shoved the Indiana lead to 24.
Redshirt freshman Teonni Key had 10 points off the bench.
NOTES — Carolina returns home at 6 p.m. Wednesday to face UNCW (ACC Network Extra/ESPN3). The Seahawks (2–4) beat Winthrop 79–61 Thursday, and visit Virginia (9–0) at 2 p.m. Sunday. … There were assists on 16 of UNC’s 23 field goals but the Tar Heels made only 11 of 33 shot attempts around the basket. … Center Anya Poole, who got into early foul trouble and had four points and five rebounds in 14 minutes, 34 seconds, was the only Tar Heel with a positive plus/minus at +1. … Hodgson has played every minute of the last two games. … Carolina has trailed at halftime of four consecutive games, all away from Chapel Hill, with two (James Madison and Indiana) on the opponent’s home court. … UNC fell to 22–10 in top-ten matchups. … Indiana earned its first win in three meetings with Carolina. … UNC finished 2–1 in ACC-Big Ten Challenge games under Banghart after a 2019 win over Illinois and a 2021 victory over Minnesota. … The loss snapped a 21-game UNC win streak in non-conference regular-season games. … The ACC won the ACC-Big Ten Challenge 8–6 to finish 11–1–3 all-time in the Challenge with a 112–80 record overall.
No. 5 Indiana 87, No. 6 UNC 63
UNC lineup combinations
|9||Wednesday||W, 91–59||Jackson State||Home||1–0|
|16||Wednesday||W, 93–25||South Carolina State||Home||3–0|
|20||Sunday||W, 76–65||James Madison||Harrisonburg, Va.||4–0|
|Phil Knight Invitational|
|27||Sunday||W, 73–64||No. 17 Iowa State||Portland||6–0|
|December||ACC/Big Ten Challenge|
|1||Thursday||L, 87–63||No. 2 Indiana||Bloomington, Ind.||6–1|
|16||Friday||W, 89–47||USC Upstate||Home||9–1|
|20||Tuesday||L, 76–68||No. 18 Michigan||Charlotte||9–2|
|ACC season begins|
|29||Thursday||L, 78–71||Florida State||Home||9–3, 0–1 ACC|
|1||Sunday||L, 68–65||No. 4 |
|Blacksburg, Va.||9–4, 0–2 ACC|
|5||Thursday||L, 62–58||Miami||Coral Gables, Fla.||9–5, 0–3 ACC|
|8||Sunday||W, 60–50||No. 10 |
|12||Thursday||W, 70–59||Virginia||Charlottesville, Va.||11–5, |
|15||Sunday||W, 56–47||N.C. State||Home||12–5, |
|19||Thursday||W, 61–56||No. 13 Duke||Home||13–5, |
|22||Sunday||W, 70–57||Georgia Tech||Home||14–5, |
|26||Thursday||W, 72–57||Pittsburgh||Pittsburgh||15–5, |
|29||Sunday||W, 69–58||Clemson||Clemson||16–5, |
|2||Thursday||W, 73–62||Virginia||Home||17–5, |
|5||Sunday||L, 62–55||Louisville||Louisville||17–6, |
|9||Thursday||L, 75–67||Syracuse||Syracuse||17–7, |
|12||Sunday||W, 73–55||Boston College||Home||18–7, |
|16||Thursday||L, 77–66, OT||N.C. State||Raleigh||18–8, |
|19||Sunday||W, 71–58||Wake Forest||Home||19–8, |
|23||Thursday||L, 61–59||No. 4 |
|26||Sunday||W, 45–41||No. 13 Duke||Durham||20–9, |
|3||Friday||L, 44–40||No. 13 Duke||Greensboro||21–10|
|18||Saturday||W, 61–59||St. John’s||Columbus, Ohio||22–10|
|20||Monday||L, 71–69||No. 12 Ohio State||Columbus, Ohio||22–11|
Photo courtesy of Indiana University Athletics