You could feel the tide turning, not just because NC State seemed lost to the area or because the fans who filled Carmichael Arena rose up and sent roars to the beams above as always. When there came a moment on Sunday when one team realized what this rivalry really meant—feeling the threat of loss even more acutely—it was North Carolina.
NC State has been the top dog — the lupine — in women’s basketball around the triangle for a long time, while both North Carolina and Duke have lost touch with past glory and changing coaches, but the gap is now smaller than it ever was, if there ever was one. It’s a free-for-all now featuring three teams, with the 11th-ranked Wolfpack back in the pack, the 22nd-ranked Tar Heels and the 16th-ranked Blue Devils soaring, and it couldn’t have been better represented. The way the UNC command pulled away Sunday.
On Thursday, the Tar Heels will host Duke. Sunday’s 56-47 win was their first Carmichael sellout in less than eight years. They may just have to wait four days for another.
“To get so many people interested in the game, how lucky are we that we live 30 minutes from three schools that are ranked and that people are interested in?” said UNC coach Courtney Bangart. “This is my life’s work and you don’t want to do it in silence, because most of the work you do is done in silence. And when you get these opportunities, you want to celebrate it.
“To get that many fans out there, I’m sure (NC State coach) Wes[Moore]said the same thing, win or lose, that was a win. A win in college basketball. We just happen to be the team that won that game. I As pleased as he is disappointed. But he doesn’t go home disappointed about the support this community has for women’s basketball.”
The scene drew not only as many fans as Carmichael can host these days—officially, 6,319, with a healthy group of state fans among them—but sports stars from across campus and beyond: Mack Brown right in the front row, Drake May and other football players. , RJ Davis and other basketball players, Roy Williams – although at this point in his retirement it’s only news that a basketball game will be made and Williams No There it is — and decades of UNC women’s basketball stars are back in town for a reunion. (Marion Jones is there, and Sylvia Hatchel clearly doesn’t.)
“It’s a competitive game and everyone goes out to play in this game,” said UNC’s Alyssa Ostby, who scored 14 of her 18 rebounds in the second half. “It’s special to have the Alumni here. It means a lot. They’ve played in big games like this too. We knew that in order to honor them we needed to go out and win.”
The presence of their ancestors may have helped cement what this game is all about, but North Carolina played like it needed a reminder. On the flip side, Moore wasn’t so sure. A lot of the players who helped turn the Wolfpack into a national powerhouse left after last season, which made the road it ended up being even more painful.
There’s little left, but Jada Boyd almost missed the fourth quarter Sunday with a recurring ankle injury and the rest of the players – who have now lost back-to-back games for the first time in nearly three years – may not fully understand why these games matter the way they have. The departed stars.
“There was a kid on your show who was four or five years old, and they understood that,” Moore said. “They’ve been here. They’ve been through the battles. Now you have players that come from other programs, they probably don’t fully understand.”
Moore may be right, but it was hard to tell until the fourth quarter. There was no separation and no place for anyone. Sometimes, the fighting was hand to hand. Opponents collided with opponents. Teammates collided with teammates. No quarter was given, and, to be honest, some snaps were made—the teams combined to miss the first 11 from the floor—until North Carolina fell behind. Destiny Adams scored all eight of her points in the final three minutes and changed hands, which ended up being just enough offense to get past the tar heels.
Neither team was where they could have hoped or expected to be in the standings—Duke leads the way in the ACC at 6-0—making the stakes higher than it could have been, which, given the current temperature of the rivalry, was already high. stratosphere.
But North Carolina beat NC State for the first time in four attempts, and did so in a fan-packed building, potentially upending the standings with the Wolfpack and, for the time being, could claim dominance over an opponent who has held the position for so long.
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This story was originally published January 15, 2023 7:00 PM.