The UNC women’s basketball team celebrated an emotional Senior Night at Carmichael Arena in the best possible way: a win over rival Duke. The Tar Heels got revenge on the Blue Devils with a 63-59 win on Sunday afternoon. Duke had won the first meeting in overtime on February 11.

In potentially their last home games as Tar Heels, Deja Kelly and Alyssa Ustby combined for 35 points in the winning effort. Both Kelly and Ustby were among the four Carolina seniors honored before, during and after the game. Anya Poole and Ali Zelaya were the other two, and they contributed eight points to the Tar Heel cause. All four retain the option to come back for a fifth and final season in Chapel Hill next year.

It looked like Carolina might run away with the game early on, as the Tar Heels took a 22-7 lead early in the second quarter. Three-pointers from Lexi Donarski – the fifth UNC starter along with the four seniors – and Ustby powered the opening salvo. But just as in the first meeting, Duke clawed all the way back from a double-digit deficit. The Blue Devils rattled off a 24-6 extended run through the second quarter’s final seconds, taking a 31-28 lead before a basket from Ustby cut it to 31-30 at halftime.

Carolina stabilized after halftime, using threes from Zelaya and Sydney Barker to keep pace. The game entered the fourth quarter tied at 46-46. The Tar Heels made their move in the early minutes of the fourth, as baskets from Zelaya and Kelly contributed to a 9-0 run in the first 3:23. Duke stayed in the fight and cut that lead to 60-58 with 15 seconds left, but free throws from Kelly saw the rivals off. Kelly scored 12 of her 18 points in the final 10 minutes.

For UNC, it’s the program’s third consecutive home win over Duke in five seasons under head coach Courtney Banghart (both meetings in the 2020-21 season were cancelled after Duke ended its season early). It’s also the fourth consecutive season under Banghart the Tar Heels have won the final home game of the regular season.

The win improves Carolina to 19-11 overall and 11-7 in conference play. The Tar Heels will be the No. 8 seed in next week’s ACC Tournament, guaranteeing them a matchup against No. 9 seed Miami in the second round in Greensboro on Thursday. The winner will face No. 1 seed Virginia Tech in the quarterfinals. Carolina won the only meeting with Miami earlier this season.


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