UNC Women’s Basketball: Jumpman Invitational: Oklahoma Preview

The UNC Women's Basketball program is participating in the Jumpman Invitational for the second consecutive season and will face the Oklahoma Sooners on Tuesday.
2023 Invesco QQQ Basketball Hall of Fame Women's Showcase - Connecticut v North Carolina
2023 Invesco QQQ Basketball Hall of Fame Women's Showcase - Connecticut v North Carolina / G Fiume/GettyImages

Courtney Banghart and the UNC Women's Basketball program are coming off a dominating 96-36 home win against an inferior in-state opponent in Western Carolina. Next up is a more challenging opponent in the 6-3 Oklahoma Sooners, which the Tar Heels will face in the second game of the Jumpman Invitational on Tuesday, December 19th.

The Sooners enter the game with three losses but have played some quality competition, with their most recent loss coming to an undefeated UNLV team. They also have a three-point loss to Tennessee. It will be a great challenge for the Tar Heels who will be looking to pick up a quality, resume-building win for the NCAA Tournament.

The annual event is entering its second season of existence, with North Carolina joining Oklahoma, Michigan, and Florida in the two-day event involving each school's men's and women's programs. Last year, the Tar Heels lost to Michigan 76-68. This year's schedule is for the Florida and Michigan men's programs to play each other prior to the Tar Heels and Sooners tipping off at 9:30 PM on Tuesday evening.

441. . 6-3. 464. ESPN2. UNCWBB vs Oklahoma. 9:30 PM ET. Tuesday, Dec 19. 7-4

Key to Victory for North Carolina

North Carolina will be reliant on their defense once again versus an Oklahoma team that is very efficient in scoring the basketball. The Sooners have four players who average in double-figures and a fifth that is averaging 9.8 points per game. As a team, they are scoring 84.9 points per game through the first nine games of the regular season.

For the UNC Women's Basketball program, they are only scoring 70.8 points per game. They will need to either score at an effectively high rate, which they have not shown they can do to this point in the season, or lock down on the defensive end of the floor and force Oklahoma into taking difficult and contested shots to limit the Sooners.

Not only are the Sooners effective in scoring the basketball, but they also rebound very well, averaging 47.7 boards per game. Meanwhile, the Tar Heels bring in 39.4 rebounds per game. Size and effort will be key points of emphasis in this one. When North Carolina gets a stop on the offensive end, they need to bring in the rebound and not allow the Sooners any second chance opportunities.

In all three of the Sooners' losses to Princeton, Tennessee, and UNLV, they have lost the rebounding battle 50-37, 49-48, and 39-33 respectively. Needless to say, out-rebounding the Sooners is a huge key to the game.

The final key to the game will be turnovers. As efficient as Oklahoma is at scoring, they average 20 turnovers per game. That is an area that Courtney Banghart's squad can take advantage of in making life difficult for the Sooners on the offensive end of the floor. If the Tar Heels force turnovers, that is one less shot going up for Oklahoma and one less opportunity for the Sooners to bring in a rebound.

Something to Watch For

As noted in our preview for Western Carolina, the availability of North Carolina's bench will could be important. Paulina Paris returned in the last game for the Tar Heels, playing 26 minutes. However, Reniya Kelly was still in concussion protocol, and Kayla McPherson was absence once again with an undisclosed injury. For Courtney Banghart's team to be the aggressive defensive team they wish to be, having depth to rotate key players is crucial.

Who will be available for the Tar Heels on Tuesday night against the Sooners will certainly be something to watch for once again.

Projected Starters

No. 1 Alyssa Ustby (Sr. 6-1) 12.0 ppg, 8.4 rpg, 3.5 apg

No. 2 Paulina Paris (So. 5-9) 5.8 ppg, 1.3 rpg, 1.7 apg

No. 5 Maria Gakdeng (Jr. 6-3) 11.1 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 0.7 apg

No. 20 Lexi Donarski (Gr. 6-0) 10.2 ppg, 2.6 rpg, 1.3 apg

No. 25 Deja Kelly (Sr. 5-8) 14.8 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 2.7 apg

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