- Sep 9, 2015
- Reaction score
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.
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:
Team Pts Reb Asst Min Foul NC A&T 13 4 4 27 1 Charlotte 13 2 0 24 0 Appy State 18 3 3 24 2 TCU 25 7 1 32 3 VCU 15 5 2 36 3 Washington 11 0 0 24 2
Alyssa Ustby Last Six Games:
Team Pts Reb Asst Min Foul NC A&T 15 7 2 25 2 Charlotte 18 11 5 29 3 Appy State 8 8 4 21 4 TCU 16 15 0 38 2 VCU 23 10 0 39 0 Washington 9 9 0 26 3
HGT POS YR PLAYER MIN AVG REB 5’8” G So Deja Kelly 27.8 15.8 3.5 6’1” G So Alyssa Ustby 29.7 14.8 10.0 5’9” G G Carlie Littlefield 29.0 9.3 2.8 5’11” G So Kennedy Todd Williams 28.0 8.5 8.0 6’2” F So Anya Poole 17.3 8.5 5.5
HGT POS YR PLAYER MIN AVG REB 5’9” G RJr Eva Hodgson 26.0 11.0 2.7 6’0” G Fr Morasha Wiggens 10.0 3.4 2.0 6’3” F Fr Destiny Adams 7.3 3.3 1.7 6’3” F Jr Malu Tshitenge 13.3 3.3 2.7 6’2” F RSr Jaelynn Murry 5.2 1.0 1.8