By R.L. Bynum
CHAPEL HILL — North Carolina’s women’s basketball team should come with a warning label for opponents: Don’t let the Tar Heels get out in transition.
Even with that warning, UNCW would have been helpless to stop the flood of fast-break points. Nine of UNC’s 16 layups came consecutively at one point as the No. 8 Tar Heels coasted to a 64–42 victory Wednesday at Carmichael Arena.
It wasn’t always smooth, particularly in the fourth quarter, and the Tar Heels got outrebounded (37–33), but 17 fast-break points from forcing 21 turnovers and blocking five shots gave Carolina (6–1) plenty to build on for when the competition gets more challenging again.
“When we’re fast, we’re really good. The challenge is how do you play fast, and then in a quarter-court be able to execute,” UNC coach Courtney Banghart said. “There’s a fine line there between control and freedom, and we’re still figuring that out, as all good teams are. That’s from good to great, it’s just figuring that out.”
Carolina could have won by a lot more, but no starter played more than 28 minutes and the half-court offense struggled at times playing with many lineup combinations.
Coming off a frustrating loss at Indiana, Carolina took a break from final exams to school the Seahawks (2–6) with balanced scoring and a bounce-back game from junior wing Alyssa Ustby.
“I always believe that defense is an offense,” said Ustby, who had one of UNC’s nine steals, and turned that into the layup she is making in the top photo. “So, play hard on the defensive end, you get a rebound or you get a steal, then you get to push it the other way. So just it starts with a defense end.”
After going 4 of 15 with eight points against the Hoosiers, Ustby was back to her usual all-around good form with her 18th career double-double and third this season. She was three rebounds away from it by halftime and finished with 16 points and 10 rebounds in 24 minutes.
“That game allowed us to see what areas we need to work on both offensively and defensively,” Ustby said of the loss to the now No. 4 Hoosiers. “So, I think, although we lost that game, it was a great game to have this early in the season so we can figure out some things before conference play.”
Kennedy Todd-Williams scored 12 points, including two 3-pointers, in 27 minutes and Deja Kelly added 10 points in 23 minutes.
Destiny Adams, who collected seven points and five rebounds, led Carolina with a career-high three assists to go with four steals and two blocks, the latter two tying career-highs, in 15 minutes.
“The kid’s super active,” Banghart said. “I think, to be great, you have to not only be active at the point of change of possession, or the big moment, you have to be active throughout, and she’s just active throughout possessions. She can make play on the ball and, when she’s not, she’s active enough to be disruptive on the backside. Her activities are a real positive.”
Adams was all over the court, being a menace to the Seahawks all night.
“I was just playing my role,” Adams said. “I was doing what the team needed me to do. That’s being aggressive, doing the little things and that’s just what I do.”
The steals and the blocks just give qualitative evidence of what fans can see — her defense has improved since last season.
“It’s just a confidence thing,” Adams said. “Last year, I was a little more on the nervous side. I’ve always known how to do and I think that really pushes my defense.”
On the day that legendary UNC field hockey coach Karen Shelton announced her retirement, Banghart wore a T-shirt commemorating Shelton’s 10th national title. Banghart, who supported the women’s soccer team in the NCAA tournament with one of her sons, had hoped to wear a women’s soccer national title shirt in the second half but UNC endured a heartbreaking 3–2 two-OT loss to UCLA in Monday’s final.
“We haven’t been home in so long, so [it was nice to have] the opportunity that we had to finally celebrate their national championship,” Banghart said. “We’ll always celebrate national championships here — we’re playing for the Carolina in front of our jersey. It worked out well that it’s also a day to honor Karen and all that she’s done, but true to Karen, she’d rather me honor her team, and that was the plan all along.”
Ustby is from Minnesota but she was just happy to be back in front of home fans for the first time since Nov. 16.
“There’s nothing like being in Chapel Hill,” she said. “It just it feels like home to all of us who come from many states away. It’s just great to play in front of our fans and the energy —there’s nothing like it.”
UNC only led by one before Kelly and Ustby each had four points in a 14–5 run midway through the opening half. After Adams’ layup, her outlet pass led to a Hodgson fast-break layup to push the lead to 10 with 6:36 left in the first half.
Carolina seemed to settle for jump shots early before getting more transition points and piling up the layups one game after the Tar Heels missed more than a dozen layup attempts.
“I think that was just part of the flow of the game,” Ustby said of the numerous early jump shots. “We kind of emphsized moving the ball around, utilizing ball screens to help get each other open and share the ball as much as we could and try to make some good-assist plays.”
Even in a one-sided game, Banghart says you can always learn something about your team
“I learned that to be great, defense really has to matter individually and collectively, against no matter who you’re playing,” Banghart said. “And I thought we were sort of expecting them to turn it over and weren’t doing our job and being positionally sound.”
She said that her team has to play better defense off the ball and on ball-screen defense, among other issues on that end.
All six of the Tar Heels’ second-quarter field goals were layups and they finished the half with an 11–6 run to lead 35–22 at halftime. Nine of 13 first-half field goals were layups.
Todd-Williams ended the streak of nine consecutive layups with a 3-pointer with 6:48 left in the third quarter. A bucket by Kelly — you guessed it, a layup — followed as the Tar Heels opened the second half with a 13–5 run.
UNC went scoreless for 5½ fourth-quarter minutes, but it didn’t matter in an easy victory because the Heels still outscored UNCW in the final quarter 11–5.
Junior forward Lexi Jackson, a Kent State transfer, led UNCW with 11 points and 11 rebounds and six blocks for her first career double-double.
NOTES — Carolina plays the second of three consecutive non-conference home games at 1 p.m. Sunday (ACC Network Extra/ESPN3) against Wofford (7–2). The Terriers have won seven in a row since a 79–68 loss Nov. 10 at Clemson, including a 67–66 Nov. 22 win at UNCW. Rachael Rose, a 5–7 sophomore guard, leads Wofford in points (17.6 per game), shooting (54.7%), 3-point shooting (53.6%), rebounding (5.7), assists (38) and steals (18). … Sunday’s game is Book Drive Day. Fans bringing a new or gently-used children’s book get a free ticket. … Redshirt senior guard Ariel Young, wearing a long brace on her left leg after having ACL surgery, was in uniform for the first time this season, giving UNC a season-high 11 available players. She played six scoreless second-half minutes with an assist and a block. … There still is no publicly revealed timetable for redshirt freshman guard Kayla McPherson. … Poole is apparently dealing with an upper-body concern, wearing a wrap around her midsection during one timeout. She finished with four points and five rebounds in 16 minutes. … UNC’s point total was its second-lowest this season, with the lowest the 63 points at Indiana. … Carolina is 5–0 against UNCW, which is 3–40 all-time against ACC teams. The Seahawks are 0–39 against ranked opponents. … UNCW is the fourth of five schools that have faced UNC in men’s and women’s basketball this season (see below).
Five non-conference schools face both UNC teams
UNCW was the fourth of five non-conference schools facing Carolina’s women’s and men’s basketball teams this season. The Tar Heels have swept two, split one and Indiana swept Carolina. They both faced JMU on the same day. Michigan will be the fourth school to meet both teams in the same city on successive days, although they played Iowa State in different Portland arenas. Both Iowa State and Indiana teams are ranked.
|UNCW||W, 64–42 Wednesday (H)||W, 69–56 on Nov. 7 (H)|
|James Madison||W, 76–65 on Nov. 20 (R)||W, 80–64 on Nov. 20 (H)|
|Iowa State||W, 73–64 on Nov. 24 (P)||L, 70–65 on Nov. 25 (P)|
|Indiana||L, 87–63 on Dec. 1 (R)||L, 77–65 on Nov. 30 (R)|
|Michigan||7 p.m. Dec. 20 (C)||7 p.m. Dec. 21 (C)|
No. 8 UNC 64, UNCW 42
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|
Ustby photo courtesy of UNC Athletics Communications