UNC Women's Basketball survives against Michigan State in NCAA Tournament opener

It came down to the wire, but the UNC women's basketball program was able to survive against Michigan State in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament.
Michigan State v North Carolina
Michigan State v North Carolina / Eakin Howard/GettyImages

Survive and advance... literally.

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That's the story of March Madness, as the UNC women's basketball program had to literally survive and advance on Friday morning.

North Carolina had control of the game throughout, but at the end of the fourth quarter, the Spartans made a strong run. In fact, they cut the Tar Heels lead to just one, as it came down to a nail-biting finish to end it.

Fortunately, the best two players on the court today were wearing Carolina Blue, as Maria Gakdeng and Alyssa Ustby were too much for the Spartans to handle.

Before we get into their individual performances, it's important to note what went on down the stretch. North Carolina once again struggled at the free throw line, keeping the door open for Michigan State to make a run.

With a one point lead with 5.4 seconds remaining, Deja Kelly went to the free throw line and sank the first attempt. The second resulted in a miss, as Teonni Key used her height to her advantage to give the Tar Heels possession. Kelly would be fouled again and the same situation occurred, but this time Ustby recorded the offensive rebound to secure the win.

The Spartans had no answer for Gakdeng, who recorded her fourth double-double of the season. She led the Tar Heels with 17 points to go along with 10 rebounds and three blocks.

As good as Gakdeng was, Ustby was even better, The senior finished with a career-high 17 rebounds to go along with 16 points, six assists and three blocks, as it was another vintage performance from Ustby as she guided the Tar Heels to another second round appearance.

With the win, the UNC women's basketball program will now likely face No. 1 overall seeded South Carolina in the Round of 32 on Sunday.

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