The fourth-seeded North Carolina women’s basketball team turned back top-seeded South Carolina 65-58 and booked a spot in the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament thanks to a strong defensive effort that earned Carolina its first win over a No. 1 seed since the 1994 title season.
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With the victory, the Tar Heels improved to 27-9 on the season while the Gamecocks dropped to 29-5 with the defeat.
UNC never trailed in the contest, seizing momentum early on and surviving a second-half surge from the Gamecocks, who went on a 10-2 run to start the closing 20 minutes of play.
Interestingly, South Carolina coach Dawn Staley chose to begin fouling UNC every time they touched the ball with over 1:30 still left on the clock. The plan backfired as Brittany Rountree knocked down clutch free throws to seal the victory.
South Carolina’s Alaina Coates took over the game in the second half with toughness inside. Coates finished with 22 points and 11 rebounds in the contest.
Carolina’s Diamond DeShields totaled 19 points to lead the Tar Heel scoring charge, but Stephanie Mavunga’s performance in the paint proved especially vital. Mavunga finished with 13 points.
In scary fashion, DeShields went down with an ankle injury early in the first half and was escorted to the locker room. But she only missed three minutes of action before returning to the court and playing on with her trademark grit and determination.
After the game, Rountree, a UNC junior, said all her experience aided in her calmness under pressure at the free throw line in the Sweet Sixteen affair.
In his postgame remarks, Associate Head Coach Andrew Calder thanked Head Coach Sylvia Hatchell and UNC women’s soccer coach Anson Dorrance for their influential words before the team departed for Stanford.
Next up for the Tar Heels is an Elite Eight showdown with the Stanford Cardinal, the No. 2 seeds in the region. The game will tip Tuesday night at 9 p.m. with a spot in the Final Four in Nashville on the line.