Kelly’s big game, collective effort of short-handed Heels, drive UNC’s blowout of Wake Forest

By R.L. Bynum

CHAPEL HILL — Whenever Deja Kelly adds hot shooting to her all-around good game, opponents are helpless to stop her. And they aren’t about to stop No. 19 North Carolina.

Wake Forest had no answers for her or any other Tar Heels on a day when they shoot 50.8% from the floor and made 35.3% of their 3-point attempts.

Kelly scored UNC’s first eight points on her way to 24 points, two 3-pointers, five rebounds, six assists and two steals as the Tar Heels pulled away in the third quarter for a 71–58 victory before 3,724 loud fans at Carmichael Arena.

“I felt good. My shot felt good today,” said Kelly after her ninth game with at least 20 points and her best shooting game this season (10 of 20 from the floor). “I was due for one. I tried to live in the gym this past week.”

Carolina (19–8, 10–6 ACC) dominated inside, outscoring the Deacs 38–18 in the lane —  thanks to sophomore Destiny Adams (11 points) and junior center Anya Poole (eight points, five rebounds) — and was pesky on defense with eight steals (two each from Kelly, Paulina Paris and Adams). There were assists on 18 of UNC’s 30 field goals, the best assist total in ACC play.

“I just thought we played really well collectively,” Kelly said. “I thought we moved the ball a lot better. I think we all got really good looks and really open shots. We got the ball inside, and luckily they finished, and I thought Anya did a terrific job inside.”

UNC played its fifth consecutive game without junior wing Alyssa Ustby (lower-body injury), the team’s leading rebounder, and eighth in a row without fifth-year guard Eva Hodgson (upper-body injury).

The Tar Heels showed signs of fully adjusting to playing without Ustby, who UNC coach Courtney Banghart said is “day-to-day and maybe hour-by-hour.” She mixed lineups, sometimes going with three lead guards with Kelly, Paris and Kayla McPherson and other times playing two post players among the group of Poole, Alexandra Zelaya and Teonni Key.

“Part of it is they’ve dealt with some disruptions throughout, and they’re kind of settling in now,” Banghart said. “They’re figuring out who can be successful when. Anya did a good job ducking in; we did a good job trusting her inside. Deja’s moving the ball better. It’s kind of a combination of things, I think.”

Without Ustby, Banghart has told her team that everybody has to bring their piece, and it was evident that they did against the Deacons.

“When you’re undermanned, that has to happen, and I hope that this experience should help them as we get healthier as we get closer to March,” Banghart said. “They don’t want it to be their show. They want it to be our show. When you’ve got Anya doing what she’s doing, and you’ve got other young guys and Destiny being aggressive, it takes a lot of pressure off of Deja and Toddy, and that’s important.

“They were getting tired of getting close and not quite getting it, and so it’s nice to see them turn the corner a little bit,” Banghart said.

Poole made some nice, athletic plays inside that she might not have pulled off last season. Her offseason work in the weight room has made her stronger. That’s paying off and allowing her to be more aggressive inside.

“I think it helps me a lot,” the 6–2 Poole said of being stronger. “Just knowing that I am considered an undersized post, I’m not undersized in the heart, the strength and just my ability. Knowing that I can get in the weight room and get stronger. I can get on the court and I can get faster, knowing that I can do that also helps my team.”

Anya Poole says that she may be an undersized post player, but she’s not “undersized in the heart, the strength” and her ability.

Poole said that the shoulder she injured in a hard fall at Syracuse on Feb. 9 is fine, and she’s back to feeling 100%.

Todd-Williams (10 points, three rebounds and five assists) also scored in double figures, and had the defensive assignment on Wake Forest star Jewel Spear. Spear led the Deacs (14–13, 5–11) with 19 points and five 3-pointers. But her plus/minus was -18, and the Tar Heels didn’t make it easy.

“We wanted to make sure that we didn’t lose her and, for the most part, we didn’t lose her. We made her make contested shots,” Banghart said. “[Todd-Williams] did the individual matchup, and then we were really aggressive to the point of screens. The posts were accountable to that responsibility because she gets a lot of her stuff in screening. And then when we switched over to zone I thought our guys did a really good job communicating where she was.”

Kelly led Wake Forest by herself 8–6 in the first 3:09, scoring Carolina’s first eight points, including a four-point play. The Deacons finished the opening quarter with a 10–5 run to lead 20–17.

Carolina scored the first nine second-quarter points, with an Adams 3-pointer, a short Kelly jumper, Paris’ steal and layup and a nice inside move for a Poole bucket giving the Heels a 26–20 lead. After Spear’s 3-pointer gave Wake Forest a 32–30 lead with 2:18 left, Carolina finished the half with a 10–4 run to lead 40–36.

Kelly scored UNC’s last five first-half points, including a driving three-point play with five seconds left.

Carolina took control with a 9–2 run to start the second half, with Kelly’s 3-pointer pushing the lead to 11. A Paris 3-pointer and Kelly layup gave the Tar Heels a 56–42 edge after three quarters. UNC turned it into a rout with an 8–2 run to start the fourth quarter, ballooning the lead to 20.

Elise Williams added 11 points for Wake Forest and Olivia Summiel scored 10.

NOTES — Carolina plays its final home game of the regular season at 8 p.m. Thursday against No. 11 Virginia Tech (RSNs) on senior night for Hodgson, Malu Tshitenge and Ariel Young. The Hokies (22–4, 1124) won at home Sunday against N.C. State 75–62 for their sixth consecutive victory. … UNC has won 10 ACC games for the second consecutive season and the 23rd time in program history. … Carolina has won two games in a row against Wake Forest and leads the series 67–18. The Tar Heels haven’t lost to the Deacons at home since 2017. … It was Black History Day at Carmichael, with several people honored during the game. The players wore T-shirts with a Martin Luther King Jr. quote on the front: “There comes a time when silence is betrayal.” … Young (knee) is out for the season.

No. 19 UNC 71, Wake Forest 58

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

(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

Photos via @UNC_Basketball


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