No. 8 North Carolina rallies past No. 18 Oregon 85-79

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Even if it was played a few hours north of campus, it felt like a home game for No. 18 Oregon with the tournament’s namesake and a former women’s national player of the year playing at the court sat.

That made her team’s North Carolina coach Courtney Banghart’s response even more impressive.

Eva Hodgson scored 14 of her 21 points on a flurry of shot-making in the fourth quarter, and No. 8 North Carolina rallied multiple times in the second half to beat Oregon 85–79 in the semifinals of the Phil Knight Invitational on Thursday. The Tar Heels face No. 5 Iowa State in the championship game on Sunday.

“We didn’t come out with the sense of urgency that I think they really need to understand that their success and their ranking is warranted,” Banghart said. “And then if things didn’t go so well, they stay completely locked into what we need to make changes.”

Part of those changes was that Hodgson didn’t falter when she got clear looks in the fourth quarter. Hodgson scored 10 points in a 90-second period of the fourth quarter after it appeared the Ducks were about to pull away. Hodgson’s four-point play with 5:12 left gave North Carolina a 72–68 lead. Oregon drew in 74-73, but Hodgson hit four free throws down the stretch, wedged around Destiny Adams’ basket, and the Tar Heels were able to hold on.

Alyssa Ustby added 19 points for North Carolina (5-0) as the Tar Heels put five players into double digits. Deja Kelly had 17 points, Anya Poole added 11 and Kennedy Todd-Williams added 10.

“My coach and my teammates have only told me for the year and a half I’ve been here to shoot the ball and let it fly,” said Hodgson. “So because I had their confidence in me, I knew towards the end of the game that we needed something to change the course of the game a little bit.”

Te-Hina Paopao led Oregon (4-1) with 18 points, Grace VanSlooten added 17 points and 11 rebounds, and Jennah Isai scored 15 points. But the Ducks will lament the chances they had to put the game away, leading 11 in the opening moments of the second half and leading 66-58 with 7:34 left after starting the fourth quarter with a run of 11-2.

Then Hodgson got hot from the perimeter. Her consecutive three-pointers stopped Oregon’s run and her four-point play put the Tar Heels ahead for good.

“Disappointed that we lost, but I’m more encouraged now than when I actually got into the game,” said Oregon coach Kelly Graves. “I wasn’t sure what to expect with this group because we are still so young and not yet tested. For the most part we played a really good game and did a lot of really good things.”

FIRST GUESTS

Knight, the founder of Nike, sat next to former Oregon star Sabrina Ionescu for the matchup. Also in the stands was Roy Williams, the former North Carolina men’s coach, who was across town earlier Thursday for the Tar Heels game against Portland in the men’s tournament.

BIG PHOTO

North Carolina: The Tar Heels started the week with their highest ranking since the 2014-2015 season, when they even reached No. 6 in the AP Top 25. The win over Oregon was North Carolina’s 20th straight non-conference win.

Oregon: The Ducks will lament their battle at the free throw line. Oregon was 6 of 14 from the line and entered the game with 72% from the free throw line for the season.

NEXT ONE

North Carolina: The Tar Heels face No. 5 Iowa State in the title game on Sunday.

Oregon: The Ducks will play Michigan State for third place on Sunday.

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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

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