Todd-Williams leads amazing 22–2 game-ending run as UNC rallies from 11 down to beat Virginia

By R.L. Bynum

Seemingly with a flip of the switch, No. 22 North Carolina went from struggling to score at Virginia to surging to a victory.

After the Tar Heels produced more turnovers (14) than field goals (13) through three quarters, they went turnover-free and shot 52.9% in the final quarter. They flipped the momentum thanks to defensive pressure that ignited their transition game and Kennedy Todd-Williams’ aggressive play.

The junior wing fueled an incredible 22–2 game-ending run with 11 of her career-high 21 points as UNC rallied from an 11-point deficit for a 70–59 victory Thursday at John Paul Jones Arena in Charlottesville, Va.

“I knew we had to pull out this win,” said Todd-Williams, who got those 11 fourth-quarter points in only 7 minutes, 10 seconds. “We’re hungry for a win. And I think that, together, we wanted to go on a run. And I think we started to do that; shots are falling for us and myself, too. And we locked down in the fourth quarter. Really proud of this group and how we came together in that fourth quarter because we were down, and we were able to stick together and pull out the win.”

Carolina takes a two-game win streak into Sunday’s 3:30 p.m. home game against No. 11 N.C. State.

It was the sixth consecutive win over Virginia for UNC (11–5, 2–3 ACC), but it looked very much in doubt until the Cavaliers (13–4, 2–4) had eight turnovers, three field goals and a scoring drought of more than four minutes in the final period.

It was yet another remarkable comeback for the Tar Heels, who rallied from significant first-half deficits in Portland to earn wins over ranked teams — then-No. 5 Iowa State and then-No. 18 Oregon — to win the Phil Knight Invitational.

Carolina was coming off a huge win Sunday over then-No. 4 Notre Dame, but the momentum from that victory didn’t seem to kick in until late Thursday. And it wouldn’t have happened without Todd-Williams.

“Kennedy is the dog, and we’re telling her to just to bring that up more and kind of share that with the whole team,” Deja Kelly, who scored 13 of her 21 points in the first half, said of Todd-Williams. “She’s really active on the defensive end, and she’s rebounding for us. She pushes it in transition, which I think is her best offense. I think she really brought that out in the fourth quarter, especially, when we needed it the most.”

What made the win more improbable is that Todd-Williams and Alyssa Ustby played the entire fourth quarter with three fouls, and both still were on top of their games. Ustby finished with 15 points, seven rebounds, four steals and — for the second consecutive game — a career-high three blocks.

UNC coach Courtney Banghart stopped her bench from telling Todd-Williams she had three fouls, and she didn’t want those two — or center Anya Poole — to think about being in foul trouble.

“It’s better that she doesn’t even know that because sometimes, if you’re trying to play safe, what it means is you’re late,” Banghart said. “You can’t go down safe; you’ve got to go down swinging. We didn’t want them to know much about their foul trouble and wanted them to stay active and focus on that instead.”

Banghart couldn’t remember being part of a game-ending run as dominant as her team unleashed in the final 6:46.

“Too bad that we didn’t play the fourth quarter four times,” said Banghart, noting that Virginia played great in the first three quarters while her team couldn’t make shots. “Throw in the mental errors, and it was just kind of a slog.”

Carolina turned the game around by shifting to a smaller lineup, with Destiny Adams in the post for the final 6:28 and freshman Paulina Paris playing the entire quarter. After Virginia dominated the boards 38–25 in the first three quarters, aggressive play allowed UNC to earn a 12–7 edge in the final quarter.

Paris, who had seven points and five assists, only made one field goal, but it was huge. After Virginia’s only basket of the last 6:46 — a Camryn Taylor inside bucket — cut UNC’s lead to two, Carolina had gone two possessions without points before a Paris 3-pointer from a few feet behind the arc with 1:52 remaining.

A 3-pointer from Virginia’s Carole Miller with 1:04 left in the third quarter gave the Cavaliers an 11-point lead and seemingly solid control of the game.

“We had a good little run there toward the end of the third, and that allowed us to kind of get into our pressure defense in the fourth, and that changed, obviously, the tempo of the game,” Banghart said. “Clearly, the full-court pressure was an advantage to us and a disadvantage to them. So it was kind of a perfect storm there.”

Trailing by seven after three quarters, Banghart’s message to her team was an honest assessment of how the game had gone to that point.

“It was more about, ‘hey, we haven’t played well at all, and we’re right there, so we’ve got 10 minutes,’ ” Banghart told her team. ” ‘There’s an element of you’ve got to make a play. We need some guys to go out there and make a play.’ “

Banghart said that her team’s confidence kept growing as they kept getting one stop after the other, and Todd-Williams’ scoring surge put the Tar Heels on a roll.


“She’s got so many different layers to her game,” Banghart said. “She’s still sort of figuring out where her attack spots are, so we’re continuing … really encouraging her to be as aggressive as she can be. She’s great at the top of the press, and I thought that let her get some run-outs as well. It’s an issue of her sometimes trying to worry about what the team needs as opposed to just going and getting one.”

The game started oddly when, in the first 26 seconds, Virginia’s Sam Brunelle drew an intentional foul for wrapping her arms around Poole on a transition play. It was quickly 2–0 UNC after a pair of Todd-Williams free throws.

Virginia’s Taylor Valladay scored 10 first-quarter points during an 11–2 run to give the Cavaliers a 12–6 lead with 3:12 left. Kelly scored all six points in a 6–3 run to finish the period to trim UNC’s deficit to 15–12 after one period.

A Kelly jumper and 3-pointer capped a 9–3 UNC run to seize a 21–20 lead with 5:03 left in the first half. After a Brunelle 3-pointer put the Cavs up by three, UNC went on a 7–2 run to take a 28–26 lead on a Todd-Williams 3-pointer with 1:14 left.

Carolina led 30–27 at halftime after Kelly scored the last of her 13 first-half points on two free throws. Ustby drew her third foul with 1:01 left in the first half.

Virginia charged to a seven-point lead with a 12–2 run to start the second half. UNC cut the lead to four on an Ustby jumper, but the Cavaliers went up by 11 with a 7–0 run. Virginia took a 51–42 lead into the final quarter by outscoring UNC 24–12 in the third quarter.

Todd-Williams scored seven of 13 consecutive UNC points, ending with her transition layup off of a long Ustby pass and two Kelly free throws, to give UNC a 61–57 lead. Paris’ 3-pointer and Todd-Williams’ layup shoved the lead to seven with 1:40 left.

Valladay led Virginia with 16 points and Brunelle scored 15 points on five 3-pointers.

NOTES — Carolina returns home for the next three games, starting at 3:30 p.m. Sunday (ESPN) against No. 11 N.C. State, which has lost three of its last five games. Florida State blew out the three-time reigning ACC champion Wolfpack (13–4, 3–3) 91–72 Thursday in Tallahassee, Fla. … Thursday’s game was Virginia’s first without 5–9 junior UConn transfer wing Mir McLean, who suffered a season-ending knee injury in Sunday’s loss at N.C. State. She was second on the team in scoring at 12.2 points per game and led the team with 9.6 rebounds per game. … Carolina, which swept both games with the Cavaliers the last two seasons, pushed its lead in the series to 57–34. … John Paul Jones Arena was the site of Banghart’s first ACC road win, 65–47, on Jan. 2, 2020.

No. 22 UNC 70, Virginia 59

No. 9 Duke10–220–3
No. 10 Notre Dame9–318–4
No. 19 Florida State9–320–5
No. 11 Virginia Tech9–419–4
No. 14 North Carolina8–417–6
No. 22 N.C. State6–616–7
Wake Forest5–814–10
Boston College4–914–12
Georgia Tech3–912–11

Monday’s result
No. 11 Virginia Tech 73, No. 22 N.C. State 61
Thursday’s games
Pittsburgh at No. 10 Notre Dame, 6 p.m., ACCN
No. 19 Florida State at Miami, 6 p.m., RSNs
No. 14 North Carolina at Syracuse, 7 p.m., ESPN3
No. 9 Duke at Boston College, 7 p.m., ESPN3
Louisville at Virginia, 7 p.m., ESPN3
No. 22 N.C. State at Wake Forest, 8 p.m., ACCN
Georgia Tech at Clemson, 8 p.m., RSNs
Sunday’s games
Boston College at No. 14 North Carolina, noon, ACCN
No. 22 N.C. State at Virginia, noon, RSNs
Miami at No. 9 Duke, 2 p.m., RSNs
Pittsburgh at Georgia Tech, 2 p.m., ESPN3
Clemson at Louisville, 2 p.m., ESPN3
Florida State at No. 11 Virginia Tech, 2 p.m., ACCN
Syracuse at No. 10 Notre Dame, 4 p.m., ACCN

(current ranking)
9WednesdayW, 91–59Jackson StateHome1–0
12SaturdayW, 75–48TCUHome2–0
16WednesdayW, 93–25South Carolina StateHome3–0
20SundayW, 76–65James MadisonHarrisonburg, Va.4–0
Phil Knight Invitational
24ThursdayW, 85–79OregonPortland5–0
27SundayW, 73–64No. 21 Iowa State Portland6–0
DecemberACC/Big Ten Challenge
1ThursdayL, 87–63No. 2IndianaBloomington, Ind.6–1
7WednesdayW, 64–42UNCWHome7–1
11SundayW, 99–67WoffordHome8–1
16FridayW, 89–47USC UpstateHome9–1
Jumpman Invitational
20TuesdayL, 76–68No. 12 MichiganCharlotte9–2
ACC season begins
29ThursdayL, 78–71No. 19
Florida State
Home9–3, 0–1 ACC
1SundayL, 68–65No. 11
Virginia Tech
Blacksburg, Va.9–4, 0–2 ACC
5ThursdayL, 62–58MiamiCoral Gables, Fla.9–5, 0–3 ACC
8SundayW, 60–50No. 10
Notre Dame
1–3 ACC
12ThursdayW, 70–59VirginiaCharlottesville, Va.11–5,
2–3 ACC
15SundayW, 56–47No. 22 N.C. StateHome12–5,
3–3 ACC
19ThursdayW, 61–56No. 9 DukeHome13–5,
4–3 ACC
22SundayW, 70–57Georgia TechHome14–5,
5–3 ACC
26ThursdayW, 72–57PittsburghPittsburgh15–5,
6–3 ACC
29SundayW, 69–58ClemsonClemson16–5,
7–3 ACC
2ThursdayW, 73–62VirginiaHome17–5,
8–3 ACC
5SundayL, 62–55LouisvilleLouisville17–6,
8–4 ACC
9Thursday7 p.m.SyracuseSyracuseACCNX (ESPN3)
12SundayNoonBoston CollegeHomeACCNX (ESPN3)
16Thursday8 p.m.No. 22 N.C. StateRaleighACCN
19Sunday4 p.m.Wake ForestHomeACCN
23Thursday8 p.m.No. 11
Virginia Tech
26SundayNoonNo. 9 DukeDurhamRSNs
ACC Tournament
1–5Wednesday–SundayTBATBAGreensboroACCN Wed.-Sat.; final on ESPN or ESPN2
You can buy tickets to home games here. ACCN means the game airs on ACC Network. ACCNX means that the game is only streaming on ACC Network Extra (ESPN3.) RSNs means the game airs on regional sports networks (in many cases, Bally Sports but also MASN, NESN and Yes Network.)

Photo courtesy of UNC Athletics Communications

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