By R.L. Bynum
CHAPEL HILL — No. 8 Carolina fought fire with fire on Sunday afternoon. And the Tar Heels had a lot of it.
Wofford came into the game 20th in the country in 3-pointers, and the Terriers hung around for one quarter, thanks to scoring four early. UNC combatted that threat with the sharpshooting of Eva Hodgson and Kennedy Todd-Williams in its best perimeter shooting game of the season.
Carolina (8–1) scored five of its season-high 12 3-pointers to pull away in the second quarter on its way to a season-high point total. The Tar Heels led by 41 before winning 99–67 Sunday at Carmichael Arena to end Wofford’s school-record seven-game Division I win streak.
It was a feel-good blowout against a decent team, with five Tar Heels notching 3-pointers and the team playing much better defense than in Wednesday’s 64–42 win over UNCW.
UNC Courtney Banghart said it’s pretty simple.
“When we play hard, we’re really good. When the ball moves, we’re really good,” she said on an afternoon when all of that happened after she criticized the Tar Heels’ defensive effort against the Seahawks.
The firepower of Todd-Williams (20 points to tie her career-high, four 3-pointers, nine rebounds), Hodgson (20 points, five 3-pointers, six assists, four steals) and Alyssa Ustby (17 points, 12 rebounds) was too much for the Terriers (7–3).
Ustby had the 19th double-double of her career, fourth of the season and second in a row by halftime. She had nine offensive rebounds (compared to seven for the entire Wofford team) as UNC owned the boards 57–21 and rebounded 59.4% of its misses.
“I actually would love them both to shoot even more,” Banghart said of Todd-Williams and Hodgson. “They’re shooting the ball great there. They hard-closed out Toddy, and she went in and made a layup. These kids are really hard to guard, and when they feel aggressive on the catch — one way or the other — we’re usually pretty good, starting to see their teammates in close.”
Point guard Deja Kelly, who continues to get extra attention from opposing defenses, added nine points and four assists, and Destiny Adams contributed 10 points and seven rebounds off the bench.
Todd-Williams, who tied her career-high point total for the third time, said that Carolina hadn’t played up to the level they expect of themselves in recent games.
“The past couple of games, we haven’t been playing up to our potential,” Todd-Williams said. “So, I think this game, we definitely showed a lot of energy, and definitely we’re playing up to our standard. And it was just very important these past couple of days with practices.”
The perimeter shooting success opened up opportunities inside, and with the Tar Heels sharing the ball and getting good ball movement, there wasn’t much Wofford could do.
Hodgson, who tied her career-high for 3-pointers in a game, said having numerous good shooters makes the Tar Heels tough to beat.
“On any given night, we need different people to step up and be able to produce, because you don’t know how you’re gonna shoot or what the other teams are gonna allow you to do,” Hodgson said.
UNC had never scored more than seven 3-pointers this season before Sunday.
“I think it shows how much work we put in on our 3-ball and finding each other. It makes offense easier when we’re making shots, of course,” Todd-Williams said. “When people are hot, we look for them. So, it felt good to be able to hit shots and get other people’s shots.”
Tar Heels fans have known the talent of the junior from Jacksonville for a while, but she keeps getting better, making UNC a dangerous team.
“Toddy came in with a lot of potential,” Banghart said. “Her growth — literally game-to-game, month-to-month — is on full display. So, she’s won over a lot of hearts in Carmichael because everyone sees, game to game, her getting better and better and better. She’s doing more at the rim, more layups. She’s catching the ball shot-ready.”
It was foreshadowing of misfortune to come for Wofford when, on its first possession, UNC center Anya Poole switched on a screen to force a turnover from guard Rachael Rose, the Terriers’ best perimeter shooter.
With Hodgson’s relentless defense, Rose — shooting 53.6% from 3-point range with a 17.6 scoring average entering the game — was held to 12 points and two 3-pointers on only three attempts.
UNC did a good job of keeping her and the other Wofford shooters off the arc, switching at the point of the screens and making the Terriers attempt tough shots. Wofford still made 13 3s but needed 35 attempts to do it.
Carolina couldn’t shake Wofford while shooting 34.8% in the first quarter, leading by five after Adams’ bucket and free throw with 1:53 left. With Teonni Key’s late layup, UNC took a 24–21 lead into the second quarter.
“For us, it’s shooting through dry spells, and also just trusting that they will fall,” Hodgson said. “All of us have put in plenty of time to get shots up. We know what we’re comfortable doing. And so allowing those to come over the course of the game is almost an expectation and, unfortunately, we’ve been shown to be a second-half team. So being able to try to get out early and maybe get some of those misses out and then get comfortable and get going is really fun.”
The Tar Heels took control from there, as UNC shot 63% in the middle two quarters.
Todd-Williams scored eight of 12 consecutive UNC points, including a pair of 3-pointers, to turn a three-point lead to 15 with 4:15 left in the first half. A Hodgson 3-pointer in the last minute gave UNC a 51–34 halftime lead.
“I was feeling it,” Todd-Williams said of the second quarter when she scored 13 points and three 3-pointers. “I was getting hot, and then — with my energy with the team — just getting that lead, which we needed because it was neck and neck for a little bit. But we got stops, easy scores, people were hot, so we were looking for each other and it made offense easier.”
Carolina scored 13 consecutive points, with two Hodgson free throws pushing the lead to 78–47 with 1:44 left in the third quarter. A short Ustby jumper was the 15th consecutive UNC point to balloon the lead to 39 with 5:21 left in the game.
One moment Banghart loved was near the end of the game when Paulina Paris could have scored in transition for her 10th point to put the Tar Heels over 100 points. But, instead, she passed to redshirt senior Ariel Young, hoping she could score.
“I think kind of encapsulates what we’re about,” Banghart said.
Jackie Carman led Wofford with 18 points and four 3-pointers.
“We never quit,” Wofford coach Jimmy Garrity said. “I thought we did a really good job on [Kelly]. That was the key, I thought. We held her for the most part in check. Then, I was just happy with our togetherness. We just had a tough time stopping their runs.”
NOTES — Carolina plays its third consecutive non-conference home game at 6 p.m. Friday against South Carolina Upstate, the least challenging of the three. The Spartans (1–6; 352 out of 361 in the NET ranking), who play home games against Morehead State on Monday and Montreat on Wednesday, haven’t won since a 69–51 win over Southern Wesleyan in their opener Nov. 7. Among Upstate’s losses were to Virginia Tech (79–24), Vanderbilt (74–45) and Old Dominion (57–31). Graduate guard Isabella Geraci leads the Spartans with 9.6 points and 6.4 rebounds. … Eight of UNC’s next nine opponents are either ranked or receiving votes in the AP Top 25 poll. … It was UNC’s best point output since a 107–46 win over UNC Asheville on Dec. 12, 2021. … Carolina’s previous-best 3-pointer games were seven against Indiana, Iowa State, Oregon, South Carolina State and Jackson State. … Todd-Williams, Ustby and Kelly are tied for the team lead in scoring average at 14.9 points per game. … Adams had one blocked shot and leads the team with 13, followed by Ustby with 11. … UNC is 7–0 all-time against Wofford, and this was the closest game between the schools. The previous closest game was 37 points on Dec. 9, 2005, and the biggest margin was 60 on Dec. 9, 2007. … Wofford is off to its best start as a Division I school (since the 1995–96 season) and its best start since going 8–1 to begin the 1992–93 season.
No. 8 UNC 99, Wofford 67
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 UNC Athletics Communications