Written by AARON BEARD, AP Basketball Writer
|South Carolina Gamecocks
The Tar Heels of North Carolina
The location of Chapel Hill is in North Carolina.
The impressive, high-scoring offense of the top-ranked South Carolina team was absent during their game against No. 24 North Carolina.
Dawn Staley was content with that outcome as her Gamecocks made crucial shots and exhibited strong defensive play.
Bree Hall earned 15 points and led South Carolina in a comeback from an 11-point deficit in the second quarter to defeat UNC 65-58 in the ACC/SEC Challenge on Thursday night.
Staley, the coach who has led the Gamecocks to two NCAA titles, expressed her satisfaction with her team’s resilience, saying, “We had to battle and struggle to come back. It doesn’t matter how unattractive it may have been, I am thrilled to see that our team has determination and competitiveness.”
Te-Hina Paopao contributed 14 points for the Gamecocks (6-0), who encountered their most difficult opponent in the beginning of the season, after a series of high-scoring victories, including against two ranked teams. South Carolina was ranked second in scoring offense with an average of 100.4 points and held the top spot in the country with an average winning margin of 51.6 points.
The Gamecocks had a close battle with the Tar Heels (5-3) until the very end, as North Carolina took an early lead and continued to keep pace even after South Carolina gained the lead in the third quarter.
Paopao stated that the game did not begin as we had hoped, but we were able to come out strong in the second half according to our plan.
In the second half, Paopao made three 3-pointers and Hall made a crucial one from the left wing with 2:08 remaining, giving the Gamecocks a 60-52 advantage. In addition, South Carolina secured their lead by making four consecutive free throws from Chloe Kitts and Ashlyn Watkins in the last 25 seconds.
This would ultimately assist them in persevering despite shooting a low 39% for the season and struggling with turnovers at the start.
Deja Kelly put up 20 points for the Tar Heels while Alyssa Ustby contributed 18 points and 12 rebounds.
According to UNC coach Courtney Banghart, both individually and as a team, we still have room for improvement. However, we possess the necessary qualities to succeed.
The University of South Carolina’s basketball team, known as the Gamecocks, had not faced a tough opponent in their first five games. They had impressive victories, scoring 100 points against then-No. 10 Notre Dame and 114 points against then-No. 14 Maryland in back-to-back games. They had never scored less than 78 points in a game this season. However, they showed resilience and determination when they found themselves trailing in a hostile and noisy environment.
The Tar Heels of North Carolina had recently suffered back-to-back defeats against No. 14 Kansas State and Florida Gulf Coast at the Gulf Coast Showcase in Florida. Despite their efforts, including strong rebounding from Ustby and Maria Gakdeng, they were unable to secure a victory and fell to a record of 3-28 against top-ranked opponents in the AP Top 25.
Gakdeng’s points boosted UNC to a 23-12 advantage, however the Tar Heels’ shooting percentage dropped to 23.9% (11 of 46) for the remainder of the game.
Banghart expressed the need for us to shoot more quickly and efficiently. She believes our struggles with shooting have caused a slight delay in our reactions, which is not reflective of the shots we practice in game-like situations.
The Gamecocks will be staying in the Triangle region of North Carolina for several days, including a visit to Duke on Sunday.
The University of North Carolina will be welcoming UNC Greensboro for a game on Wednesday.