North Carolina remained undefeated (6-0) while claiming the Phil Knight Invitational title over Thanksgiving weekend with two impressive come-from-behind top-20 wins over Oregon and Iowa State. The Tar Heels were rewarded with a move up of two spots in the latest Associated Press top-25 poll to No. 6 overall while being named NCAA.com Team of the Week.
North Carolina started the week by rallying from a 12-point deficit to pull out an 85-79 win over No. 18 Oregon on Thursday in Portland, Oregon. Playing in front a neutral-but-leaning-Oregon crowd and with Knight himself sitting courtside, all five Tar Heel starters hit double figures, led by senior Eva Hodgson's 21. Alyssa Ustby scored 19, Deja Kelly 17, Anya Poole 11 and Kennedy Todd-Williams 10.
Hogdson, whose 21 points marked her high as a Tar Heel, made every shot she took in the fourth quarter including three 3-pointers and five free throws for 14 points in the period. The senior guard hit a three in front of her bench, took the foul and then made a free throw for a four-point play that put North Carolina up 72-69 with 5:12 remaining, a lead the Tar Heels never surrendered. Hodgson, who played her first two years at William & Mary, had previously logged a 34-point game while playing there.
The Tar Heels then fought back from a 17-point deficit to beat No. 5 Iowa State 73-64 Sunday evening at the Moda Center in the championship game of the Invitational. Kelly led the Tar Heels with 29 points, 22 of them after halftime, and was named the tournament MVP. Todd-Williams scored 17, all in the second half, Ustby had 14 and Hodgson 11 as the Tar Heels came back from a halftime deficit for the third straight game to win.
North Carolina started the season ranked 12th in the preseason Associated Press poll, which was the highest preseason ranking for the Tar Heels' in more than seven years, since the middle of the 2014-15 season.
North Carolina moves on quickly to another challenge as they next play at No. 5 Indiana on Thursday, Dec. 1 in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge.