LOS ANGELES - Freshman Allisha Gray scored a game-high 30 points to lead No. 12/14 North Carolina to a 78-68 victory at UCLA Sunday at Pauley Pavilion.
Gray becomes the first Carolina freshman to score 30 points in a game since Ivory Latta in 2003-04. She also hauled in 10 rebounds for her second-straight double-double after a 15-point, 10-rebound performance Monday against Tennessee.
Classmate Jessica Washington played the best game of her young career by offering up 16 points and five assists. Gray and Washington combined for 46 of the Tar Heels’ 49 bench points.
“I thought the players off the bench did a very good job for us tonight,” said Associate Head CoachAndrew Calder. “Very proud of how they performed with the foul trouble are starters had tonight. Proud of how our team battled tonight.
“I thought we did a much better job today of communicating than we had during the exhibition games and also the Air Force and Tennessee games.”
But that didn’t bother Washington as she scored five quick points to stake Carolina to a 17-8 lead early in the first half.
UCLA rallied to tie the game at 19-all after a free throw from Lauren Holiday at the 5:49 mark
Despite the mounting foul count, a 13-2 run after the free throw from Holiday gave UNC a 32-21 advantage. Gray scored seven points to fuel the run.
Carolina led 34-30 at intermission, but UCLA wasted little time in knotting the game at 36-all early in the second half.
Tonight, however, belonged to Gray. She put Carolina back in front, 39-36, with a three-pointer that ignited a 26-7 run that saw the lead grow to 19, 62-43, with 7:45 to go.
“My main focus is to do whatever I can to help this team,” said Gray. “If coming off the bench is going to help my team than I’m fine with that.”
Carolina had a brief hiccup late in the game by going scoreless for over three minutes, allowing UCLA back in the game briefly with a 12-0 run.
UCLA got to within 66-59, but right on cue, Gray delivered her sixth triple of the night to send momentum back in favor of the Tar Heels.
The Bruins never got closer than seven points as Carolina was 6-for-6 at the free throw line in the final 27 seconds.
Thea Lemberger led UCLA with 19 points, while Atonye Nyingifa had 18 points and 11 rebounds.
North Carolina hosts Coastal Carolina on Thursday at 7 p.m., on GoHeelsTV.http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/gray-scores-30-in-womens-basketball-road-win-at-ucla/
OMAHA, NE – “The end of the year, it always stinks.”
Those were UNC Head coach Mike Fox’s sentiments following Friday’s disappointing 4-1 loss to UCLA that knocked the Tar Heels out of the College World Series.
Let’s be honest. There is never a good time to lose. But there can only be one team who doesn’t end their season on a loss. It is both the intrigue and cruelty of postseason tournament play. A team that dominates all season (much like Carolina), can see their season end abruptly at any time. And baseball only exacerbates this effect, as sometimes all it takes is a hot ace on the mound to befuddle the best of lineups.
And unfortunately, the Diamond Heels’ designs on getting their hands on the program’s first NCAA College World Series title fell through late Friday evening, but not before an attempt at a signature ninth inning rally that this UNC squad seemingly patented in their 2013 campaign. Heck, the Heels practically turned the miraculous into the mundane with their late-game heroics, especially late in the season.
“What we did in the ninth inning is just indicative of our kids and how we played all year,” Mike Fox reflected postgame.
Boy, that statement could not ring any truer.
Can you recall the ACC tournament? In what felt like a full mini-season all to itself, UNC survived back-to-back extra inning ballgames against Clemson and NC State just to advance to the championship game where they ultimately defeated the Hokies of Virginia Tech. The sheer will and determination of the UNC squad was put on full display in those late night, no, early morning nail biting contests needed just to secure their own conference crown.
And then it was on to the NCAA tournament. As the number one overall seed, the Tar Heels undoubtedly felt a mountain of pressure along with having a gigantic target on their backs for other upstart teams. And it showed. Unheralded Florida Atlantic forced UNC to an elimination game.
The heart of a champion came out once again for the Tar Heels as they rallied back on multiple occasions to survive the home run barrages of the FAU squad to advance and win a game that Fox remarked was one of the greatest ones he had ever been a part of.
Super Regionals came next. North Carolina’s neighbors to the South were on deck. And wow, what a series it was. Not surprisingly, the Tar Heels found themselves knee deep in another elimination game. And they came up with the goods once again, scraping out a 5-4 decision over the ever-tough South Carolina Gamecocks to yet again book their tickets to Omaha.
The adversity the Tar Heels team continually faced this postseason was matched and exceeded by their “never say die” attitudes that cannot be taught. This team had more fight in them than Mike Tyson. The team thrived with their backs against the wall. Houdini-esque escapes were all but routine. And maybe it finally caught up to them on Friday night. Who knows?
But let’s remember the 2013 Diamond Heels for their admirable fighting spirit and all their unbelievable accomplishments including a school record 59 wins, a school record for most runs scored in a season, the ACC regular season and tournament titles, and another trip to Omaha.
Coach Fox, himself, dubbed this year’s squad “a coach’s dream.” He went on to add that it had been one of his most fun seasons. And this is coming from a man who has been at the helm of Tar Heel baseball since 1999. Just think of all the remarkable teams we have witnessed since then.
So let’s take a cue from Mr. Fox and savor what we have witnessed. What a wild ride it has been. Tar Heel nation was treated to so many unforgettable thrills along the way. And yes, there was no championship ring at the end of the day. But sometimes, in life and in baseball, it is the journey it took to even get there in the first place that ends up being the sweetest part of all.http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/cardiac-carolina-comes-up-just-short-in-special-season/