UNC Women’s Basketball Ready to Travel to No. 16 Notre Dame for ACC Showdown

The UNC Women's Basketball program has started ACC Play 2-0 and will face its toughest conference challenge yet when they travel to South Bend on Sunday.
Jumpman Classic: Oklahoma v North Carolina
Jumpman Classic: Oklahoma v North Carolina / Grant Halverson/GettyImages

Courtney Banghart's UNC Women's Basketball team is coming off one of its most impressive 2023-2024 basketball season victories after beating No. 25 Syracuse 75-51 in a statement win. It was one the Tar Heels needed and wanted badly after being dropped from the AP Top 25 for the first time all season following a win over Clemson last weekend.

Now, North Carolina is presented with another challenge and opportunity to make a statement to the rest of the ACC and the country this weekend. The Tar Heels will prepare to travel on the road to South Bend, Indiana, to face the No. 16-ranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish.

ESPN2. 5:00 PM. 10-4. 441. Sunday, Jan 7. UNC WBB at Notre Dame. 10-2. 819.

The Irish are 1-1 in Conference play after losing at Syracuse 86-81 on New Year's Eve last weekend. They bounced back with a 71-66 win at Pittsburgh on Thursday evening and will be playing their first home game in Purcell Pavilion since December 21st.

Key to Victory for North Carolina

This one is going to come down to similar keys that were presented in the victory over the Orange on Thursday that allowed the Tar Heels to pull away for a dominating victory. Syracuse entered that game averaging 81.5 points per game, showing no reason they couldn't put the ball in the basket. However, the UNC Women's Basketball program thrives on defense, and held the Orange to just 51 points.

The challenge will be the same again on Sunday in South Bend. Notre Dame averages 87.4 points per game, scoring at an effective rate and making 49.2% of their field goal attempts. Can North Carolina dig deep again defensively, and this time on the road to pick up another big ACC win and start conference play 3-0?

The Irish also bring in 43.5 rebounds per game, 3.5 more than the Tar Heels average. With a high-powered offense like Notre Dame has, limiting second-chance opportunities will be crucial to come out victorous on Sunday.

Something to Watch For

Notre Dame freshman guard Hannah Hidalgo is averaging an impressive 24.5 points per game in 33.8 minutes, and slowing her down will certainly be an important factor in stopping the Irish offense. We would assume that UNC Women's Basketball defensive star Lexi Donarski will draw the assignment on Hidalgo.

Have the Tar Heels found their groove offensively? In the first two games of ACC play, they are averaging 78.5 points per game, which is 7.3 points more than their season average. Against the Orange, North Carolina shot 50% from the field and 41.2% from three.

Was this an outlier? Or is this something to expect from the Tar Heels moving forward? If it is the new direction of this team, the ceiling rises drastically on a team that is already very effective on the defensive end of the floor. Combining great defense with great offense will be something to watch in the matchup with Notre Dame and the rest of the 2023-2024 season for the UNC Women's Basketball team.

Projected Starters

No. 1 Alyssa Ustby (Sr. 6-1) 13.1 ppg, 9.4 rpg, 3.7 apg
No. 2 Paulina Paris (So. 5-9) 6.1 ppg, 1.4 rpg, 1.7 apg
No. 5 Maria Gakdeng (Jr. 6-3) 10.8 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 0.6 apg
No. 20 Lexi Donarski (Gr. 6-0) 11.4 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 1.1 apg
No. 25 Deja Kelly (Sr. 5-8) 14.7 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 3.1 apg