CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- Deja Kelly scored 20 points to lead No. 7 North Carolina past USC Upstate 89-47 on Friday night.
Kelly shot 8 of 11 from the floor and grabbed four rebounds as the Tar Heels (9-1) won their third straight game. Eva Hodgson added 16 points, four assists and four steals, and Alyssa Ustby chipped in nine points and 11 boards.
“I think Deja has been playing really well all season,” UNC coach Courtney Banghart said. “To be able to distribute play and create looks for her teammates when she’s not shooting as well as she’d like is a sign of really good player; a really good offensive player, when you can impact the game without scoring.”
The Spartans (3-7) were led by Trinity Johnson’s 13 points and five steals.
Upstate kept the score close early, trailing just 10-8 midway through the first quarter. But then the Tar Heels closed the opening period on a 15-4 run to take a double-digit lead into the second. Kelly had eight points and two assists during that stretch.
The Tar Heels went on to lead by 32 points in the third quarter, following a 17-8 run. Hodgson scored seven points in the third on 3-for-3 shooting.
Key for the Tar Heels in the win was their sharp shooting. UNC made 60.7% of its field goals for its best single-game mark of the season.
Meanwhile, Upstate committed 18 fouls and allowed a season-high 37 field goals made.
“(UNC) does a really good job in terms of getting downhill and spreading the floor consistently,” first-year Upstate coach Jason Williams said. “The foul count was tremendous on their part because our kids were battling. And being able to go and fight and compete, that’s all I can really ask for my group.”
North Carolina: For the third straight season, the Tar Heels went unbeaten at home in non-conference play. They won Friday by shooting well, crashing the boards hard and leaning on Kelly, their dynamic playmaker. It was Kelly’s third game of the season in which she had scored at least 20 points. She and the Tar Heels found success inside, outscoring the Spartans 48-12 in the paint.
USC Upstate: The Spartans entered the game having won two straight, but were simply no match for UNC. The disparity in size and skill was apparent on the glass, where the Heels outrebounded the Spartans 42-25. While UNC returned four starters from last season, USC Upstate reloaded its roster with eight transfers and four freshmen. The Spartans should get the chance to build some chemistry when Big South play begins.
PARIS A PLUS
The Tar Heels also got a boost Friday night from the lone newcomer to the roster this season, freshman Paulina Paris. In 20 minutes off the bench, she scored a season-high 15 points on 6-of-9 shooting.
“It felt really great. These last few games have been kind of a struggle, so just to be able to shoot well meant a lot to me and my teammates. They helped me,” Paris said. “It’s been hard at times, but my teammates really helped me through it, and just pushed me and guided me along the way.”
Paris also finished with two rebounds, two steals and an assist. She’s carved out a role for herself as the team’s backup point guard and used non-conference play to establish her role in the rotation.
“She just puts the time in. She just stacks days,” Banghart said of Paris. “So, when the ball goes in for her, we’re obviously really happy for her.”
North Carolina: The Tar Heels will face No. 19 Michigan at the Jumpman Invitational in Charlotte on Tuesday.
USC Upstate: Back at home, the Spartans host Queens on Tuesday.
AP women’s college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/womens-college-basketball and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-womens-college-basketball-poll and https://twitter.com/AP—Top25