December 17, 2020 

ACC notebook: UNC needs more from vets, Nyah Green to leave Louisville

Louisville loses a player while Miami gains one

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UNC’s Petra Holešínská goes for a lay-up in the Tar Heels game vs. S.C. State on Dec. 3, 2020, at Carmichael Arena in Chapel Hill. (Mitchell Northam / The Next)

After losses, Banghart asks more from veterans

The North Carolina Tar Heels are still searching for their first ACC win of the season.

After losing to Wake Forest last Thursday, Courtney Banghart’s side was supposed to travel to No. 2 Louisville for a shot at redemption, but the Cardinals are still shut down after having someone in its program test positive for COVID-19. Because Duke was the last team to play Louisville, they postponed their game against Miami to continue contact tracing measures. So, because Miami and UNC had games scrapped, they decided to play each other, setting up an impromptu game for Monday.

And again, the Tar Heels were outplayed, losing 67-63. Dating back to last season, UNC is riding a 10-game losing streak against ACC opponents.

There were a few common threads in both defeats for the Tar Heels. To start off, they shot just awful from outside in both games, making combined 5-of-37 attempts from behind the arc. That’s a 13.5% success rate and it is difficult for a team to win when it shoots that poorly.

UNC also didn’t share the ball as well as it did in non-conference play. Over their first five games, the Tar Heels averaged 19 assists per game. They had nine against Wake Forest and 11 against Miami. In both games, they had more turnovers than assists, coughing up possession 15 times in each loss.

Against Miami, the Tar Heels also missed 12 free throws. When you lose by four points, that’s a statistic that stings.

Second-year head coach Courtney Banghart put some of the blame on her two graduate transfers, Petra Holešínská and Stephanie Watts, a pair of veterans she expects to set examples. Against Wake Forest and Miami, the duo shot a combined 10-of-39 from the floor and 1-of-19 from three-point range, totaling just 22 points and 11 turnovers between the two of them across both contests.

For both players, the performances were uncharacteristic. Holešínská was one of the best three-point shooters in the Big Ten last year. Watts averaged 15.2 points-per-game and shot 37% from three in her last healthy season for the Tar Heels. And both played pretty well in the Tar Heels’ non-conference slate, but going against the likes of S.C. State and Charlotte is a bit different than the ACC.

“We need better play from (Holešínská) and Watts, and they said that in the locker room today. They need to play better. They’ve had two games where they’ve both thrown an egg,” Banghart said after UNC’s loss to Miami. “We got to shoot better, the older guys have to play better, but I love this team and I think we’ll keep getting better… We got outplayed at the senior spot and we have to make sure that stops happening.

“Or we just got to play young and live with that.”

Indeed, the bright spot is that UNC is getting solid play from some of its youngsters when its veterans aren’t answering the call. Deja Kelly had 16 points against Miami, while Alyssa Ustby led the team in scoring off the bench with 17 points vs. the Canes. Anya Poole had double-digit rebounds in both losses.

 “These ACC games have been a big opportunity for us younger kids to learn and to grow,” Ustby said.

North Carolina is back at home Thursday, but its schedule doesn’t get any easier. No. 18 Syracuse is coming into town.

Former McDonald’s All-American to leave Louisville

Nyah Green is looking for a new basketball team, apparently.

The redshirt freshman from No. 2 Louisville has entered the transfer portal, sources close to the situation told The Next this week.

On Thursday, Louisville confirmed her transfer in a release.

“Nyah reached out to us and felt that a move was the best thing for her,” Cardinals’ head coach Jeff Walz said in a statement. “Nyah is a very talented player and an excellent student. We wish her nothing but the best moving forward.”

Green was a highly-touted recruit coming out of Allen, Texas. A 6-foot-1 guard, she was tabbed as the 12th-best player in the 2019 class by ESPN and was also a McDonald’s All-American. She had countless offers from the top programs in the sport but ultimately chose Louisville over LSU, Baylor, South Carolina, and Tennessee.

She was named to the Preseason ACC Newcomer Watch List last season but ended up taking a redshirt year.

This season, Green had come off the bench in each of the Cardinals’ games. She played a season-high 16 minutes in Louisville’s blowout win over DePaul, tallying six points, four boards, and an assist. Green also registered five points and three rebounds in Louisville’s victory over Eastern Kentucky. After shooting 0-for-4 from the floor in the Cardinals’ game against UT Martin, Green played just one minute in Louisville’s ACC opener at Duke.

Walz’s program has been on-pause since a member of it tested positive for COVID-19 last week, and postponed home games vs. North Carolina and FSU. Their next scheduled game is against Miami on Sunday, Dec. 20.

Virginia Tech’s Cayla King drives against N.C. State on Jan. 2, 2020, at Reynolds Coliseum in Raleigh, N.C. (Mitchell Northam / The Next)

A closer look at Virginia Tech’s 88-71 win over Pitt

The Hokies leaned heavily on Elizabeth Kitley and Aisha Sheppard in non-conference play but showed last Thursday that they have other weapons. This time, it was Cayla King who shined, posting a career-best 29 points, powered by her seven three-pointers.

King, who attended the same high school as Kitley and N.C. State’s Elissa Cunane, also had six rebounds and an assist. She’s become a starter for the Hokies this season and is shooting a reliable 50% from three-point range while also grabbing 3.8 boards per game.

“We’re an all-around team. If you take away our outside game then our posts will go to work, and if you take away our posts, our guards are ready to shoot,” King said. “It shows we aren’t one-dimensional and that will come in handy down the road.”

Pitt gave Virginia Tech a good fight — leading by as much as 11 points in the second quarter — but couldn’t hang on. The good news for the Panthers is they have two players, Dayshanette Harris and Jayla Everett, who can score with anyone in the ACC. Both players are in the top 11 in the conference in points-per-game.

“We got to give Pitt a lot of credit,” Sheppard said. “They hit a lot of shots in the first half. And they’re obviously much better than they were last year. They gave us a run for our money, definitely.”

Virginia Tech scored 21 points off 16 Pitt turnovers and also shot 48.4% from the three-point range. The Hokies pulled away in the final quarter, outscoring Pitt 25-8.

According to Her Hoop Stats, the Hokies are 24th in the country in points-per-game (83.8), 13th in three-point percentage (42.4%), 10th in points per-scoring attempt (1.19), eighth in defensive rebounds per game (33.8), 17th in net rating (31.7), second in three-pointers made per game (11.7) and fourth in effective field goal percentage with a 58.2% mark — which is also topped in the ACC.

While Virginia Tech hasn’t played a challenging schedule thus far, they’re undefeated at 6-0 and playing some incredibly efficient basketball. It’s hard to argue with these numbers, and they may have a say in the ACC title chase this season. Kenny Brooks’ side will be tested Thursday on the road in South Bend, facing a Notre Dame team that hasn’t quite lived up to its hype so far.

Erjavec eligible for Canes

The NCAA granted a blanket waiver this week for all Division I transfers currently sitting a year in residence.

For Miami, that means Karla Erjavec can play immediately. A junior in the classroom, the 5-foot-10 Croatian has three years of eligibility remaining. She came to Coral Gables after playing two seasons at Wyoming, where she started in 51 of 53 games.

“Oh my, this is some of the best news that I’ve gotten lately,” Erjavec said in a statement. “This means so much to me. After the whole year and everything I’ve been through, this is an opportunity I’m so excited to take on. Thank you to everyone that helped and supported me up to this point. It’s only up from here. Let’s freaking go.”

Across two years at Wyoming, Erjavec averaged 8.1 points, 3.5 assists, and 2.9 rebounds per game. One of her best games was as a sophomore when she racked up 17 points, eight rebounds, and six assists in a win at New Mexico.

Erjavec has also featured for her home country on the international stage, most recently playing with the senior national team at the EuroBasket Women 2021 qualifiers in November.

She should give Katie Meier’s side some valuable depth in the backcourt. The next game for the 4-1 Canes is scheduled for Dec. 20, at No. 2 Louisville.

ACC extras

  • After losing to Virginia Tech, Pitt turned around and got a win over previously unbeaten Clemson on Sunday, 80-71. Again, Dayshanette Harris was the star with 21 points, five assists, and three rebounds in just 23 minutes of work. Fellow sophomore Amber Brown chipped in 14 points, five boards, and four steals.

  • Pitt head coach Lance White said this after the win: “Well, obviously I’m really excited about an ACC win and I thought the things that we did in the third and fourth quarters were much better. I was really disappointed in the way we started the game. I thought we were really flat and just got out rebounded and out hustled during every part of it. Then, our kids flipped a switch and that’s what we’ve talked so much to this team about, about being able to do so in those moments and we did it today.”

  • In the Seminoles’ 69-51 win over Virginia, FSU junior Valencia Myers tied a program record for blocks in a single game with nine. She now shares the record with Jacinta Monroe who made her mark in 2009. Myers also had 14 points and five boards in the win.

  • No. 4 N.C. State trailed Boston College by 16 points with 6:50 to play on Sunday before charging back to win 75-69. It’s the second-largest comeback for the Wolfpack under Wes Moore, only trailing the erasure of a 20-point deficit to Miami in 2015. Kayla Jones scored a career-high 25 points, while Elissa Cunane had 23 points and 15 boards. Jada Boyd (knee) remains sidelined for the Wolfpack.

  • Georgia Tech’s 82-67 victory over Notre Dame on Sunday was the Yellow Jackets’ first-ever win against the Irish in women’s basketball.

Written by Mitchell Northam

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