Thursday Takedown: Tar Heel Women Overcome Sluggish Start, Top Wolfpack 79-70
With the loss, the Wolfpack fell to 14-2 on the season and 1-1 in conference.
After a sluggish start that saw the Tar Heels fall behind 7-0 quickly, UNC responded in fine fashion thanks to the steady play of Diamond DeShields, who finished team leader in points with 21, and the powerful inside force of Stephanie Mavunga.
The Tar Heel defense also stiffened with clutch rebounding and aggressive coverage of its own.
Carolina shot above fifty percent overall on the night as a team while N.C. State struggled, going through significant scoring droughts.
N.C. State opened up with the first points of the contest when Len’Nique Brown darted in a three-pointer. And some sharp shooting continued for the Wolfpack to get out to an early 7-0 lead.
But UNC’s Xylina McDaniel broke the scoring drought for the Tar Heels with a beautiful play. And McDaniel fought her way inside for a physical make that got UNC within five at 9-4 with 15:50 remaining in the half.
Markeisha Gatling powered her way inside to an easy layup to stake the visiting squad dressed in red out to a 13-4 advantage with 14:24 left in the half.
Allisha Gray responded nicely with a three-point basket of her own to help Carolina’s cause while Diamond DeShields heard her name called by the announcer when she fitted the ball through the nets.
But the hot shooting continued for the Wolfpack. So much so, Associate Head Coach Andrew Calder called a timeout with 12:42 on the clock and his team trailing 19-9.
Tar Heel N’Dea Bryant hit a long-range two-pointer to close the gap down to 19-13, but a steal was converted for a score by Wolfpack player Myisha Coleman to counter act it.
Bryant was heating up and providing a nice spark for the Tar Heels when the Wolfpack called timeout with 8:57 to play. UNC was within a pair of points now with the score at 21-19.
A three-point play by NCSU’s Kody Burke came at the 7:40 mark in the first half, and the tempo was picking up as DeShields sniped down a jumper on the other end. The score stood at 24-21 Wolfpack with 7:10 to play in the opening half.
Stephanie Mavunga tied the game up at 26 with a layup with just under 5 minutes to play.
DeShields ran the full length of the floor off a takeaway and converted to the delight of the Carmichael crowd. A media timeout was called with 3:44 to play in the first half. The Tar Heels had earned a 32-26 lead.
The Tar Heel defense was beginning to stiffen, grabbing key rebounds and playing aggressively. Meanwhile DeShields and Mavunga continued their electrifying play on the offensive end to help UNC seize control of the game heading into the locker room.
At the half, it was North Carolina leading N.C. State 45-29.
Carolina was shooting an impressive 58.1 percent from the floor in the opening half while NC State was shooting at a 39 percent clip.
The leading scorer for the Tar Heels was Diamond DeShields with 14 points.
The start of the second half led to some sharp shooting for the Wolfpack. In under a minute, NC State had managed to trim UNC’s lead down to 45-35.
Jessica Washington knocked down an outside shot behind the arc to score UNC’s first points of the second half. DeShields followed with a score of her own. UNC led 50-38 with 18:20 to play in the contest.
The Wolfpack continued to take advantage of their scoring opportunities, but a turnover was converted for points by Gray to steady UNC and give the Tar Heels a 56-44 lead with 14:12 to play.
With 11:32 to play, timeout was called. Carolina maintained a comfortable 60-44 lead.
Miah Spencer of the Wolfpack closed the margin down to 12 points with 9:48 to play with a running layup.
A nice pass to Brittany Rountree from DeShields resulted in a scoring play to up the advantage back up to 14 points.
A technical foul was called on NC State Head Coach Wes Moore, and that helped Carolina increase its lead even further.
A Wolfpack timeout was called with 4:58 to play. Carolina led 69-57, holding steady.
But N.C. State kept fighting as Gatling fought her way to the foul line, making both of the free throws to close within five points with under three minutes to go.
In the end, UNC made its free throws down the stretch and held on for the victory over its in-state rival.
You can view the complete game box score here.