Down two starters and shooting poorly, UNC’s 8-game win streak snapped at Louisville

By R.L. Bynum

Leaning on No. 11 Carolina’s young talent, the Tar Heels showed resiliency playing without two starters.

With fifth-year guard Eva Hodgson already out for three to four weeks with an upper-body injury, junior wing Alyssa Ustby also missed Sunday’s game with a lower-body injury against a talented Louisville team in a tough road environment.

The Tar Heels battled but couldn’t overcome all that, missing Ustby’s all-around play, particularly her offensive rebounding, in a 62–55 loss in front of 10,069 fans on Denny Crum Court, ending their eight-game win streak.

Both coaches drew third-quarter technical fouls in a heated battle, producing a badly needed win for Louisville (17–8, 8–4), which got 17 points each from guards Hailey Van Lith and Chrislyn Carr (five 3-pointers).

“We just didn’t play well enough to win. We didn’t handle the pressure well enough, which forced really tough shots,” said UNC coach Courtney Banghart, who offered no timetable or further details on Ustby’s situation.

The numbers weren’t pretty for Carolina (17–6, 8–4 ACC): a season-low 1 of 12 from 3-point range, 10 of 22 on layup attempts, 33.3% shooting (the third-lowest this season) and 64% from the free-throw line. Louisville outrebounded the Heels 46–35 — a season-high disparity — as UNC rebounded only 24.3% of its misses.

With both teams scoring 19 field goals and 16 free throws, the difference was perimeter shooting as the Cardinals went 8 of 27 from 3-point range.

It was the first time since the start of the 2020–21 season that UNC has played without Ustby (13.6 points and a team-leading 8.9 rebounds per game) in the lineup. Banghart said she got “tweaked up” in practice so they decided to be cautious, and she didn’t make the trip.

Without Ustby, the Cardinals had an 18–8 edge in second-chance points.

“Alyssa does a lot for us, but so does Eva,” Banghart said. “We’re out two starters. So, I have a lot of freshmen and sophomores playing a lot right now. And this was a great college basketball environment to get around them a little bit. And that kind of showed itself in a few costly errors, which is tough in a possession game. Great experience for our young guys, but didn’t do quite enough to help us win.”

Freshman Paulina Paris (12 points, five rebounds, two assists, three steals and UNC’s only 3-pointer) made her third consecutive start in place of Hodgson and played all 40 minutes. Sophomore Destiny Adams (scoreless with a rebound and two steals in 16 minutes) got her second career start, taking Ustby’s spot.

“They both do important things on both sides of the floor that we needed tonight, so that’s their impact,” Paris said of Ustby and Hodgson. “We have to do better. We didn’t rebound as well.”

Foul trouble didn’t help, as Adams, junior Kennedy Todd-Williams (nine points, team-leading eight rebounds), junior Anya Poole (10 points, five rebounds, team-high +1) and redshirt freshman Kayla McPherson (7 points, four rebounds) all finished with four fouls. Louisville was 16 of 24 from the free-throw line.

“She definitely helps space the floor,” Kelly, who led UNC with 13 points, said of Hodgson. “[It] allows us to attack the rim more, get into gaps more. I think we’re definitely missing her. The guards that we have, we definitely have to step up and knock down some 3s.”

McPherson played 27 minutes after combining for 35 minutes in her first two games, much of that time with fellow lead guards Kelly and Paris on the court. Only seven Tar Heels played, as, for the first time since the Dec. 20 loss to Michigan, Ally Zelaya didn’t get into the game.

“The pace of the game was pretty physical, and that’s not necessarily what their best strength is in the matchup,” Banghart said of Zelaya and reserve center Malu Tshitenge. “Points were hard to come by, so it was figuring out that and figuring out on both ends of the ball. I have great trust in them; but it just didn’t feel like that was the right decision today.”

Kelly pulled down three rebounds, but had five turnovers against one assist and was 3 of 16 from the floor. Without a perimeter threat, Carolina didn’t have a lot of space to operate against a tough Cardinals defense, which made most shots difficult as did their hard-hedging on ball screens.


“Especially in that second half, I think that it was rebounding [that was the biggest factor],” said Kelly, who added that UNC gave up too many transition points. “Obviously, we’re missing our best rebounder but that meant that a lot of us had to step up and we didn’t. I think that that kind of took a toll and I think we let their pressure bother us way too much. So it was a lot of tough shots that we had to take.”

After a pair of Teonni Key free throws put UNC ahead 10–7, Van Lith scored eight consecutive points — including a pair of 3-pointers — to give Louisville a five-point lead. McPherson’s jumper cut Carolina’s deficit to 15–12 heading to the second quarter.

Carolina went scoreless for more than four minutes and fell behind 21–14 on Carr’s 3-pointer with 5:48 left in the first half. The Heels came to life with six consecutive points in 29 seconds to start an 8–0 run, with a McPherson jumper giving UNC a three-point lead. Morgan Jones’ late layup cut UNC’s lead by halftime to 24–23.

Those were the fewest first-half points since UNC scored 23 first half against Duke, 22 vs. Iowa State, 21 vs. N.C. State and 21 vs. Notre Dame. Carolina won all four of those games.

UNC seized the momentum with the first eight second-half points.

Kelly sold a foul on Norika Konno while attempting a 3-pointer, drawing a technical foul on Louisville coach Jeff Walz.

Walz said he didn’t get the technical foul to get his players to play harder.

“You can only watch so much of it before you’ve got to make a statement because it was bad,” Walz said of the officiating. “It was not a good performance by any means. And, unfortunately, the three officials don’t have to come in here and answer questions. … It was just to the point where it was not very good.”

Kelly made all three free-throw attempts, Todd-Williams split a pair of free-throw attempts and Poole scored inside to give the Heels a 32–23 lead with 8:33 left in the third quarter.

Two Paris free throws ended a 5–0 Louisville run, and a Todd-Williams drive pushed the lead to eight. But, with Kelly on the bench, two consecutive Carr 3-pointers and a Jones layup tied it. Another Carr 3-pointer capped a 13–1 Cardinals run, and they led by four.

Banghart drew a technical foul protesting a charging call against McPherson. However, it wasn’t as costly as Walz’s technical, as Louisville only got one point out of it.

A pair of Mykasa Robinson free throws gave Louisville a 48–43 lead entering the final quarter.

Paris sank a 3-pointer, after a jab-step to get space behind the defender, with 6:10 left to cut UNC’s deficit to one. Louisville’s lead expanded to six before a Kelly jumper with 2:17 cut it to four.

Kelly, a 73.6% shooter at the line coming into the game, missed a pair of free-throw attempts with 1:49 left, and Van Lith gave Louisville an eight-point lead on two free throws 24 seconds later.

NOTES — Carolina plays its second consecutive road game Thursday, facing Syracuse at 7 p.m. (ESPN3). The Orange (14–9, 5–7) snapped a two-game losing streak with a 79–72 home win Sunday against Boston College. … That was the first time in 12 games this season that UNC has lost after leading at halftime. … Louisville avenged a 66–65 loss in Chapel Hill last season, has won nine of the last 10 meetings and leads the series 9–4. … UNC’s previous worst 3-point shooting game was 3 of 18 (16.7%) against Texas Christian. … The previous largest margin by which Carolina was outrebounded was 51–41 in the home loss to Florida State. … UNC had 11 steals and has collected double-digit totals in three of the last four games (10 against Pittsburgh and 16 against Clemson). … The crowd of 10,069 was more than the attendance for Carolina’s previous four games combined and the largest for a Carolina game in at least four seasons.

Louisville 62, No. 11 UNC 55

UNC lineup combinations


ACC standings

No. 10 Notre Dame15–324–4
No. 11 Duke14–424–5
No. 9 Virginia Tech14–424–4
No. 23 Florida State12–623–8
No. 22 North Carolina11–720–9
N.C. State9–919–10
Boston College5–1315–16
Wake Forest5–1314–15
Georgia Tech4–1413–16

Thursday’s results
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
Sunday’s results
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

UNC statistics

(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. 17 Iowa State Portland6–0
DecemberACC/Big Ten Challenge
1ThursdayL, 87–63No. 2 IndianaBloomington, Ind.6–1
7WednesdayW, 64–42UNCWHome7–1
11SundayW, 99–67WoffordHome8–1
16FridayW, 89–47USC UpstateHome9–1
Jumpman Invitational
20TuesdayL, 76–68No. 18 MichiganCharlotte9–2
ACC season begins
29ThursdayL, 78–71Florida StateHome9–3, 0–1 ACC
1SundayL, 68–65No. 4
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, 56–47N.C. StateHome12–5,
3–3 ACC
19ThursdayW, 61–56No. 13 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
9ThursdayL, 75–67SyracuseSyracuse17–7,
8–5 ACC
12SundayW, 73–55Boston CollegeHome18–7,
9–5 ACC
16ThursdayL, 77–66, OTN.C. StateRaleigh18–8,
9–6 ACC
19SundayW, 71–58Wake ForestHome19–8,
10–6 ACC
23ThursdayL, 61–59No. 4
Virginia Tech
10–7 ACC
26SundayW, 45–41No. 13 DukeDurham20–9,
10–8 ACC
MarchACC Tournament
2ThursdayW, 68–58Clemson Greensboro21–9
3FridayL, 44–40No. 13 Duke Greensboro21–10
NCAA tournament
18SaturdayW, 61–59 St. John’sColumbus, Ohio22–10
20MondayL, 71–69No. 12 Ohio State Columbus, Ohio22–11

Photo courtesy of UNC Athletics Communications


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