The No. 11 North Carolina women’s basketball team couldn’t overcome a sluggish start and lost to Virginia Tech 50-47 Sunday afternoon at Carmichael Arena, dropping to 21-7 on the season and 9-5 in the ACC.
With the upset victory, the Hokies improved to 13-14 overall and 3-11 in conference action.
“We’re not going to use an excuse that we’re young. We’re talented. We should’ve played better than we did. Even though Virginia Tech had something to do with this, we still did not play as good as we could play and it’s my responsibility to get them to that level,” Associate Head Coach Andrew Calder says.
After a slow beginning that saw the Tar Heels fall behind 19-7 just eight minutes into the contest, Carolina turned on the defensive intensity and used a 13-0 run to grab the edge at 20-19 with 3:49 on the first half clock.
From there, the Tar Heels faced a tough battle in the second half with Stephanie Mavunga and Xylina McDaniel hooking up for scoring plays to fill the void of an off day for freshman sensation Diamond DeShields.
Danielle Butts provided a nice spark with two key baskets that helped Carolina capture the lead midway through the second half, but the Tar Heels could not hold on down the stretch against Virginia Tech.
DeShields struggled on the day, finishing with only eight points while Xylina McDaniel led the team with 13 points. Overall, Carolina shot a woeful 27 percent from the floor.
Vanessa Panousis led the scoring charge for the Hokies with 24 points, matching her career high.
Thanks to early turnovers and some hot shooting, the visiting Hokies raced out to a 12-point lead at 19-7 with 12 minutes to play in the opening half.
A couple baskets from DeShields kept Carolina in the contest as Xylina McDaniel popped in a score in transition to snap the Tar Heels back to attention.
Brittany Rountree made a nice streak around the basket for a score. McDaniel followed that one up with a three-point snipe that closed the Tar Heels within three points at 19-16 with 8:53 remaining in the half.
Mavunga worked her way to the foul line and knocked down one of the attempts to continue UNC’s surge. Carolina tied the game up at 19-19 with 4:34 before halftime.
With 3:49 on the first half clock, Allisha Gray made a free throw to break the tie and give Carolina the 20-19 edge. It was a 13-0 run for the Tar Heels as their defense was clamping down on the Hokie offense.
In the lowest scoring half for the Tar Heels this season, the score stood at 25-24 in favor of Virginia Tech.
The start of the closing half was all Hokies as they spurted out to a 30-24 advantage with 17 minutes remaining.
Carolina was finding it hard to find the nets until Gray knocked down a pair of free throws to break the cold spell.
But with 15:56 to play, the Tar Heels were trailing 32-26 to the last-place Hokies.
Mavunga scored inside on a layup to close the gap down to four points as the urgency was picking up in the contest. Virginia Tech responded, though as Campbell knocked down a jumper to push the Hokies back up 34-28 with under 14 minutes remaining.
Rountree worked her way to the line with some physical play. She got both shots to fall to trim the lead down to four points once again.
An explosive play by Danielle Butts ignited the crowd and tied the game at 36 points with under 11 minutes to go.
Gray scored her first basket of the day to give UNC the 38-36 advantage with 9:30 on the clock. The defensive pressure from the Tar Heels was giving the Hokie offense fits, generating turnovers.
Butts provided another boost with a dash to the basket and a score to continue the upward swing of momentum for Carolina.
DeShields scored her first points of the second half at a perfect moment to maintain the Tar Heel lead in the closing minutes of the game. Carolina led 43-41 with 4:59 to play.
Trailing by one with 2:47 to play, the Tar Heels committed a careless turnover on a pass out of bounds to hand the ball to the Hokies.
Crucially, DeShields was fouled on a three-point attempt in the late stages that cut the Virginia Tech lead down to a single point with 55 seconds to go in the game.
Panousis was sent to the line for Virginia Tech to give the Hokies the 48-45 advantage. McDaniel then made a two-point play to bring UNC to within one at 48-47 with 7 seconds remaining.
After a pair of Panousis free throws, Carolina’s three-point try was no good. Virginia Tech pulled off the massive upset.
Next up for the Tar Heels is a road trip to No. 2 Notre Dame Thursday.
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