Game 10: Gophers Host North Carolina (12-1-21)

Ignatius L Hoops

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CHALLENGES: ACC, B1G AND OTHERS

Three years ago, when North Carolina (6-0) hired Courtney Banghart to replace Sylvia Hatchell, ESPN’s Mechelle Voepel voiced some concerns:

"So, the North Carolina job -- which should have been highly coveted -- went to someone who throughout 19 years as a player, assistant and head coach in the Ivy League has won once in an NCAA tournament game.

[…]

Now, she'll be in a conference regularly going against the likes of two-time national champion Notre Dame, Louisville, Syracuse, Florida State, Miami, etc., along with, of course, local rivals NC State and Duke. How quickly can she adjust?

This isn't meant to cast aspersions on Banghart or the Ivy League. She might continue to thrive now that she's in a power conference recruiting more elite players. But it is meant to question whether North Carolina actually swung for the fences with this hire. And if the school really does believe this is a home run, why not act like it?”


In her first season (2019-20), Banghart’s Tar Heels were 16-14 (7-11 in the ACC) with a big win over the #9 NC State Wolfpack. Covid canceled the post season.

In her second season (2020-21), the Tar Heels were 13-11 (8-9 in the ACC) with a big win over the #4 NC State Wolfpack. Defeating the Wolfpack gave the ‘heels the extra boost required for an NCAA bid. They were promptly eliminated by Alabama in the first round 71-80.

However, the second win over the Wolfpack was a useful summation of North Carolina’s past and future. Playing their final season in Raleigh were starters and leading scorers: Janelle Bailey (13.6 ppg), Stephanie Watts (12.0 ppg) and Petra Holesinska (11.9 ppg). Representing the future were freshmen Deja Kelly (11.0 ppg), Alyssa Ustby (9.9 ppg) and Kennedy Todd-Williams (5.8 ppg).

It was Ustby, from Rochester Lourdes, leading the seniors and freshmen to victory over NC State with a 20 point, 12 rebound and 5 assist performance.

This season, with the departure of Bailey, Watts and Holesinska, the Tar Heels are young. The starting lineup features four sophomores and a senior. With wins over NC A&T, Charlotte, Appalachian State, TCU, VCU and Washington they are off to a 6-0 start. And Ustby and Kelly have stepped up to lead the way.

Alyssa Ustby the 6’1” sophomore guard leads the Tar Heels in steals and in minutes played (29.7 per game). Ustby also averages a double double with 14.8 points and 10 rebounds per game.

Deja Kelly, a 5’8” sophomore guard from San Antonio, Texas was named to the ACC All Freshmen Team. Kelly is the leading scorer (14.8 per game) and will launch a three. She is 8-20 from behind the arc.

Carlie Littlefield is the experienced senior in the group playing 29 minutes per game. The 5’9” guard transferred from Princeton where she was an All-Ivy selection in her sophomore and junior years. According to her bio: “As a junior, finished the year ranked in the Ivy League’s top 10 in points, field goal percentage, assists, steals, free throw percentage, three-point percentage and assist-turnover ratio”

The fourth guard is sophomore Kennedy Todd-Williams. She started five games last season and averaged 18.6 minutes and 5.8 points per game. This season she’s playing more (28 minutes per game) and scoring more (8.5 per game). Todd-Williams is also the second leading rebounder with 8 per game.

Anya Poole, a Raleigh native, is a 6’2” sophomore post player. She rounds out the starting lineup; but only averages 17.3 minutes per game.

Eva Hodgson, a transfer from William & Mary, is a 5’9” junior guard seeing significant time off the bench (26 minutes per game). Hodgson was a First Team All Colonial Conference selection and has proved a very useful addition to the Wolfpack.

The remainder of the roster has some height; but opponents need to concentrate on the first six. Two players, 6’3” freshman guard/forward Teonni Key and 6’1” guard Ariel Young suffered ACL injuries in the preseason and are out for the year. Key was a highly ranked recruit expected to contribute. Young was a former Michigan Wolverine who came off the bench for the Wolfpack last season.

Courtney Banghart’s undefeated team is scoring 79.83 points per game while allowing 44.5. Despite another good start for the Tar Heels, Mechelle Voepel’s concerns will remain largely unanswered until the conference season.

More important to Gopher fans, this is the last tune-up before the Big Ten openers with the high scoring Huskers and the highly ranked Wolverines. We have our own concerns to suss out during the upcoming stretch facing the Tar Heels, Huskers and Wildcats.

PREVIOUS MEETINGS:

Minnesota, 1-4 versus North Carolina, is currently on a four game losing streak versus the Tar Heels. The last two contests were fairly recent. In 2016 the two teams met in the Junkanoo Jam with the Tar Heels prevailing 91-77. The following year the Gophers traveled to North Carolina as part of the ACC/B1G challenge. It was closer; but Minnesota lost 88-83. Gadiva Hubbard led all scorers with 25 points (5-9 from three) before fouling out in 29 minutes of play. Shakopee’s Tylor Koenen led the Tar Heels with 21 points and 6 rebounds in 40 minutes.

NORTH CAROLINA RECORD (6-0):

Wins: NC A&T 92-47, Charlotte 89-33, Appalachian State 89-44, TCU 79-46, Washington 58-37

Deja Kelly Last Six Games:

TeamPtsRebAsstMinFoul
NC A&T1344271
Charlotte1320240
Appy State1833242
TCU2571323
VCU1552363
Washington1100242


Alyssa Ustby Last Six Games:

TeamPtsRebAsstMinFoul
NC A&T1572252
Charlotte18115293
Appy State884214
TCU16150382
VCU23100390
Washington990263


Probable Starters:

HGTPOSYRPLAYERMINAVGREB
5’8”GSoDeja Kelly27.815.83.5
6’1”GSoAlyssa Ustby29.714.810.0
5’9”GGCarlie Littlefield29.09.32.8
5’11”GSoKennedy Todd Williams28.08.58.0
6’2”FSoAnya Poole17.38.55.5


Others:

HGTPOSYRPLAYERMINAVGREB
5’9”GRJrEva Hodgson26.011.02.7
6’0”GFrMorasha Wiggens10.03.42.0
6’3”FFrDestiny Adams7.33.31.7
6’3”FJrMalu Tshitenge13.33.32.7
6’2”FRSrJaelynn Murry5.21.01.8
 
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Katogopher

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Really enjoy your game to game previews very informative, look forward to your previews more than the Strib. I know it’s early in the season but to me this is a must win game. The opening season loss to Jacksonville put this team behind the 8 ball for NCAA’s. They really don’t have any signature wins. Beating 2 middling power 5 teams won’t cut it. Big question can the big 3 starters (Powell, Sissoko and Scalia) all show up at the same time?
 


EaganGopher22

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And let's hope we don't see more of Czinano, Hedman, and Cumming in this game (unless of course we find a way to be ahead by a large margin the 4th Q).
 


Ignatius L Hoops

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What we may see on Wednesday night; Alyssa Ustby and Courtney Banghart recount the VCU win:

Carolina took control in the second half using four guards and a wing, with Alyssa Ustby playing the five spot during a key stretch of the second half.

“You know, we just were having trouble with their ball screens,” Banghart said. “We weren’t sharp enough at the point of the screen. And, so, we figured if we went small, we could switch them all. And Alyssa gives us that flexibility, which is great. Also, the game was really physical. They weren’t calling the post game at all. So it was not to our advantage, to even battle in there. So, it worked. Like I said, there’s a first time for everything.”

It was another sensational game for Ustby.

“The kid is just is so fun to coach because look how hard she plays,” Banghart said of Ustby. “You don’t have to call a lot of stuff for her. You just know that she’s gonna find a way when it matters. She’s getting much more aggressive on the catch, which helps us, and also the fact that she can play 39 minutes in a game like that is a testament of her conditioning.”

Banghart said that Ustby was more of a pass-first player during her freshman year and relied on her athleticism to be successful, but says she’s “getting it” in the early part of her sophomore season.

“Now, she’s much-more skilled with a much-better understanding of what’s going on,” Banghart said. “She’s not a finished product. We have to continue to grow her ball-handling and vision and things like that.”

Ustby met the challenge of guarding and trying to score against a bigger player.

“It wasn’t that difficult for me,” said the 6–1 Ustby. “I was really excited for the challenge to play against somebody who was bigger in size.”

Ustby said the small lineup made it easier on the defensive end.

“It was so loud in that gym and it was very hard to communicate,” Ustby said. “So, I think our team made a great adjustment and played small so we were able to switch a lot of positions.”

What didn’t Ustby do for the Tar Heels against VCU? Whether it was driving to the hoop, making a jumper, setting screens or hitting the boards, she did it all with a good all-around game that has become so familiar to Carolina fans.

“I just came out ready to play my usual game, just being aggressive, being there for my teammates, trying my best to be in gaps and help defense and just trying to be everywhere to make an impact from all aspects of the game,” Ustby said. “Any of those little things that I can do, I’m going to do them every game.”
 

Ignatius L Hoops

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Postbulletin:

“It will be bittersweet coming home, because Minnesota is a school that I looked up to growing up,” said Ustby, who was recruited by the Gophers but ultimately chose North Carolina. “Getting the opportunity to play on that court will be great. It will kind of be the clashing of my two families, my Minnesota world clashing with my North Carolina world.”

The North Carolina world is one that takes precedent these days for Ustby, a 6-foot-1 ultra-athletic and strong sophomore who is already in her second year as a starter.

Ustby has fallen in love with what the Tar Heels have brewing, with that dominant 6-0 start and a togetherness that she says is unmistakable.

The Tar Heels and their coach, Courtney Banghart, have also fallen in love with Ustby and her game.

Ustby gave a taste of what she was capable of a year ago. Though she was the lowest-ranked player in an outstanding North Carolina recruiting class last year, she didn’t play like it.
 

MNGirlsHoops

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I like how we match up against NC. they are playing like us, putting an undersized Utsby in the 5 spot with 4 guards. That should play into our strength as well when we go with Kadi at the 5... But we can also go with Kadi at the 4 and Michauex at the 5, we dont lose any athleticism on the defensive end, and Michauex could possibly play significant minutes. If Utsby plays the 5, that is a physical size mis match. Utsby is better suited to guard Kadi, not Micheaux.
So in summary, we match up well.. I like our experience, length, and size in this game.
 

Katogopher

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I like how we match up against NC. they are playing like us, putting an undersized Utsby in the 5 spot with 4 guards. That should play into our strength as well when we go with Kadi at the 5... But we can also go with Kadi at the 4 and Michauex at the 5, we dont lose any athleticism on the defensive end, and Michauex could possibly play significant minutes. If Utsby plays the 5, that is a physical size mis match. Utsby is better suited to guard Kadi, not Micheaux.
So in summary, we match up well.. I like our experience, length, and size in this game.
I like your line up and philosophy, Michauex definitely needs more playing time.
 



MNGirlsHoops

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I like your line up and philosophy, Michauex definitely needs more playing time.
we shouldnt forget she is a freshman, and has shown dramatic improvement, but still will make freshman mistakes like traveling, so you will see flashes of being great, but you also might see a freshman too..
I'm predicting she is the next Imani Lewis or even more topside the kid from Michigan, a 15p and 12r kid in the next couple years (at least the 12r). That was a great get for the coaches.
 

adamj95

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Powell not starting due to an “internal decision”….. Wtf?
 


adamj95

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Hopefully nothing serious. I don’t want a repeat of Pitts.
 




GringaGopher

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Hopefully nothing serious. I don’t want a repeat of Pitts.
I definitely don't want to open that old wound and have all the GH " experts " tell us who was to blame. I like how we matchup but will need to shoot the three well.
 


Katogopher

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Cannot box out Utsby on rebounds. Sissoko 2TO’s already…
 


Waffle

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Getting a lot of open 3's, unfortunately only shooting 3-16.
This is like night and day from watching the Jacksonville game though lol.
 

Outsider

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Somebody needs to play some on the ball defense. They are getting to the rim or wide open threes on kick outs.
 

MRJ

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First time watching the ladies this season. Unimpressive. Across the board.
 

jham13

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You won't beat any team shooting 15.8% from three. Not sure why they don't work it into the paint more as they've had success there.
 

GringaGopher

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NC is killing us on the drive and we need to change up our D. I keep waiting for Smith to break out on offense but not seeing it so far. We desperately need Sissoko to stay on the floor and avoid more foul trouble.
 



whalenfan

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Good idea to start Diva on Ustby this half, she cant get around her.
 

Waffle

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I feel like Ustby travels all the time on her 3 point attempts. Looks like 3 steps.
 

MRJ

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I don't think UNC is anything special since they don't play much defense, but that was a much better quarter by the ladies.
 

Waffle

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Powell took that shot way too early. UNC gets a half court heave :(
 

MRJ

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I feel like Ustby travels all the time on her 3 point attempts. Looks like 3 steps.
She skips with her feet a ton. She also got away with a pretty clear travel on a post move earlier in the frame.
 




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