By R.L. Bynum
CHAPEL HILL — With determination and grit, Destiny Adams wasn’t about to let No. 11 N.C. State escape a raucous, sellout Carmichael Arena with a victory.
Adams scored eight points, all in the fourth quarter — including a pair of corner 3-pointers and a physical inside bucket — as No. 22 North Carolina knocked off No. 11 N.C. State 56–47 in front of a high-energy crowd of 6,319.
Adams got off only one shot in the first three quarters, but gave UNC (12–5, 3–3 ACC) just the shot of energy it needed to put away the Wolfpack (13–5, 3–4) in a game full of offensive struggles by both teams.
Carolina won its third consecutive game despite a season-low point total.
“We kept it interesting,” said UNC coach Courtney Banghart, whose hair still hadn’t dried from the water shower her team gave her in a raucous dressing room after the game.
“I’m sure there are some people who were questioning if either team ever practiced offense,” Banghart said. “But we don’t really care how the game goes as long as we have one more point than the other team, which we did. So, we’re certainly happy to have another ranked win under our belt.”
Carolina’s seven games over ranked teams and four wins are tied for the most in the country. The eighth matchup against a ranked team will be at Carmichael at 8 p.m. Thursday against No. 16 Duke (ACC Network), which leads the ACC.
Kennedy Todd-Williams collected 15 points, four rebounds, two steals and two blocks in one of the Tar Heels’ best defensive efforts. Against a taller team that figured to have a rebounding edge, UNC won the boards 45–41 for the first time in a conference game, and rebounded 25% of its misses.
Leading the way was Alyssa Ustby with her typical presence inside despite only being 6-1. In the second half, she pulled down 14 of her career-high 18 rebounds and Adams snagged six of her career-high nine.
“Every time I grabbed a board, I was like, ‘OK, did that this possession, got to work harder and get another one,’ ” Ustby said. “I knew that in order to get my teammates the best shots we could, it would have to be like a rebound kick-out for a wide open shot, and I was just trying my best to get some of my teammates to have the best opportunity to get the ball in the basket.”
N.C. State coach Wes Moore scoffed at the suggestion that his team’s superior height would mean a rebounding advantage, saying it’s all about heart.
Ustby had plenty of that, with big offensive rebounds down the stretch to give UNC extra chances.
“I’ve always said rebounding’s heart and positioning because I’ve got a whole lot of heart and I don’t think [between] me and [Utsby], I’ve got much of a shot,” Banghart said, sitting between Ustby and Adams. “These two are so active. They do the little things that put them in the right position, even if the shot goes in. I know they’re undersized, but they’re properly positioned and they’ve got the heart of a champion for sure.”
Adams followed up her game-changing moves with a quick sprint into the stands as soon as the game ended. She hugged her mom and sister, who flew down Sunday morning from New Jersey and had an early-evening flight back.
“I just wanted one more hug just to say goodbye, and I thought that was the perfect time to do it so I didn’t miss anything,” said Adams, in photo below cheering in front the bench.
Carolina fans no doubt embrace her versatile game after her performance down the stretch.
Adams’ first 3-pointer, with three minutes left, came 14 seconds after N.C. State learned about Adams’ physical determination. She wouldn’t be denied, even if it was 6–3 Camille Hobby standing in her way.
On a drive, she spun past State’s Diamond Johnson to her left before bulling her way by Madison Hayes and Hobby for the score and push UNC’s lead to six (play in video below).
“I think I just wanted it more than she did,” Adams said. “We needed the win against State. We had to beat them, and I just wanted to give my team everything I had.”
A big reason she knocked down two key corner 3-pointers was a conversation with Banghart after the Virginia Tech loss on New Year’s Day. Adams came to Banghart and asked what she could do to help the team win games.
“I said that you are one of our better 3-point shooters,” Banghart said she told Adams, in addition to saying that she needed to extend her defense. “I would work on that. I would make that be something that you really hang your hat on.”
Banghart convinced Adams, who ignores her statistics, that her numbers suggest she could significantly improve UNC’s offense.
“Sometimes you just need someone else to believe in you to push you over the edge,” Banghart said. “And there are not two people who believe in Destiny Adams more than me; just not possible.”
Adams has overworked the managers since then, as they rebounded while she relentlessly practiced 3-point attempts. After making 2 of 3 tries from outside the arc Sunday, she boosted her team-leading 3-point shooting percentage to 47%.
“Destiny has had immense growth from year one to year two,” Ustby said. “But I think the biggest growth is realizing how good she is and that she’s had all the tools in order to shoot well and to finish in the low post and go grab rebounds and get steals and all those things. But it was kind of her uncovering those skills and putting them on display.”
Carolina continues to get it done on defense and Banghart keeps opponents guessing, whether it be with a man-to-man or a zone. The latter befuddled the Wolfpack in the fourth quarter.
“Offensively, against the zone, I thought we stood around a little bit,” Moore said. “We needed to do a better job of attacking the gaps. We need to be more aggressive against it, and we didn’t get a lot of offensive rebounds.”
Banghart said it was all about activity.
“As our activity goes up our defensive and our defensive productivity goes up,” Banghart said. “I thought they their activity was was huge. I thought when Ally Zelaya went in, and she didn’t just go in and be long. She was active.”
Eva Hodgson had missed all eight 3-point attempts in the previous two games and was 5 of 26 in league play before Sunday. But she shook off those struggles against the Wolfpack with three 3-pointers. All of them seemed to come at huge times, given that it was a low-scoring game.
Carolina didn’t score until the first of a pair of Hodgson first-quarter 3-pointers 3:27 into the game. Her second one with 1:10 left gave the Tar Heels an 11–9 lead heading into the second quarter.
N.C. State took a brief one-point lead on a Jakia Brown-Turner 3-pointer with four minutes left, but Paulina Paris hit a 3, then Kelly’s jumper with two seconds left gave the Tar Heels a 21–19 halftime lead.
Johnson scored four points on an 8–2 run to take a four-point lead in the second half. UNC retook the lead on a Hodgson 3 and an Ustby layup, but State took a 32–31 lead into the fourth quarter with a 5–3 run.
The game shifted as Carolina shot 58.3% in the fourth quarter.
An Alexandra Zelaya jumper started a run of eight consecutive UNC points, five from Todd-Williams, to take a five-point lead on an Ustby free throw with 7:19 remaining. A 3-pointer from Hayes with 4:57 left chopped the lead to two, but Paris responded with a driving layup.
Adams’ second 3-pointer with 1:31 left pushed it to seven and a pair of Todd-Williams free throws with 27 seconds left put the game away.
Brown-Turner led State with 14 points and Hobby added 13 as the Wolfpack shot 29% for the game.
NOTES — Duke (16–1, 65–0) takes an 11-game win streak into its game against UNC after an 65–47 win Sunday at Georgia Tech. The Blue Devils’ lone loss was a 78–50 setback in Portland on Nov. 25 against Connecticut. … UNC’s previous sellout was when the No. 15 Tar Heels lost to No. 12 Duke 74–67 in overtime on Jan. 25, 2015. … Alumni Day attracted about 70 former UNC players, who came on the court in groups during timeouts, including Marion Jones. … Mack Brown, who spoke to the team before the game, Roy Williams, Drake Maye and several men’s basketball players were there to support the Tar Heels. … Senior Pack forward Jada Boyd hurt an ankle at Florida State. She played Sunday, but only for 18 minutes and scored two points. … State leads the series 62–54 since the first meeting after women’s basketball was officially recognized as a sport at both schools in the 1974–75 season. … Carolina is 30–20 against State in Carmichael. … Moore is 11–9 against UNC and Banghart is 3–4 against the Pack. … State suffered its second consecutive loss and fourth in its last six games. … It was a color rush game, with UNC wearing its blue road uniforms and State wearing its red road uniforms.
No. 22 Carolina 56,
No.11 N.C. State 47
UNC lineup combinations
|No. 10 Notre Dame||15–3||24–4|
|No. 11 Duke||14–4||24–5|
|No. 9 Virginia Tech||14–4||24–4|
|No. 23 Florida State||12–6||23–8|
|No. 22 North Carolina||11–7||20–9|
No. 9 Virginia Tech 61, No. 22 North Carolina 59
No. 10 Notre Dame 76, Georgia Tech 53
No. 23 Florida State 61, Wake Forest 60
Syracuse 85, Pittsburgh 55
Louisville 71, Miami 50
Clemson 79, Virginia 69
No. 11 Duke 77, N.C. State 62
No. 22 North Carolina 45, No. 11 Duke 41
No. 10 Notre Dame 68, Louisville, noon, ESPN3
Miami 84, Virginia 75
Boston College 73, Wake Forest 63
Clemson 74, No. 23 Florida State 61
N.C. State 68, Pittsburgh at 63
No. 9 Virginia Tech 65, Georgia Tech 52
End of regular season
|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|
Photos courtesy of UNC Athletics Communications