In a game that featured 46 turnovers, one player that scored in double figures between both teams, and the winning team shooting 34% from the field, the Carolina Tar Heel women’s squad toughed out a 45-41 win over the Duke Blue Devils. In a year that hasn’t quite gone the way Carolina thought it would thanks to big injuries, they manage to sweep the Blue Devils and hand the home squad their first loss this season in Cameron Indoor Stadium.
Carolina didn’t have a single player get to double figures. Deja Kelly, Alyssa Utsby, and Kennedy Todd-Williams all had nine to lead the Tar Heels. Elizabeth Balogun led the Blue Devils with 12, no one else for Duke had more than six.
Duke controlled the game both in style and on the scoreboard almost from the jump. Carolina took a 6-5 lead with 6:10 left in the first quarter, then surrendered a 3 two minutes later to trail 10-8, and never saw the lead again until Todd-Williams hit two free throws with 1:57 left to take 40-38 lead. The free throws were part of a 14-2 run in the fourth quarter to turn a seven point deficit to a five point lead with 1:16 to go.
Todd-Williams also hit the biggest shot of that run, a three pointer in front of the UNC bench with 2:22 left, much to the delight of the Carolina fans that made the trek over to Durham. The Carolina fans in attendance made their voices known, and a group managed to take up a block right in front of the court, across from the UNC Bench. It added to a big-time feel of the game.
Duke has been making their hey as a tough defensive-minded team, and as rough as the first game was-a 61-56 win for the Heels-this one was inarguably the ugliest game. Both defenses clamped down, but in the end it was the Tar Heels who managed to turnover Duke a hair more, 25 to 21. The Tar Heels only shot 34.1% for the game, but held the Devils to 30.2%. They also did it without fouling, only sending the Devils to the free throw line just six times compared to the fifteen times Carolina hit the line. Duke just going 5-6 while Carolina went 12-15 is the big difference in the game.
The win comes as huge turnaround for the Tar Heels, who lost a heartbreaker on Thursday night to Virginia Tech at the buzzer. Duke was playing for the outright ACC Regular Season championship, but this loss combined with a Notre Dame win over Louisville at the same time sent the Blue Devils to the second seed for the Tournament in Greensboro starting on Wednesday.
The Tar Heels will be the seventh seed, as Miami downed Virginia. The two squads are tied for sixth but Miami won the only meeting between the two, thus holding the tiebreaker.
As the seven seed, the Tar Heels will play on Thursday at 6 PM, facing off against the winner of 10 seed Clemson and 15 seed Pittsburgh. Those two will square off on Wednesday at 3:30 PM. Should the Heels win the Thursday game, they are set to square off against Duke for the third time on Friday at 6 PM.
Carolina is still in contention to host the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament — a right given to the first four seeds in each region. They’ll likely need to make some noise in the ACC Tournament as the recent Bracketology before Sunday’s games had the Tar Heels with a five seed heading to Austin. A third win over Duke and a trip to the ACC Semifinals might be enough to slide them into the four seed line.
The Tar Heels are going to be a squad no one wants to face. Their record hides the fact that they fought through several injuries late in the season, and are just now getting players back. Both Utsby and Eva Hodgson missed several games before getting back into the lineup against the Hokies on Thursday, and while some rust has been present they’ve clearly been a different team with those two back on the floor.
The ACC Tournament should be a fun one this week.