Entering this college basketball season, the 2016 Tar Heels found themselves atop the national rankings carrying massive expectations–despite never having reached the game’s biggest stage.
After the top-seeded Tar Heels’ knocked off Syracuse 83-66 in the National Semifinals on Saturday night in Houston, the team head coach Roy Williams said is his favorite of all-time is now one game from fulfilling all of its preseason promise.
Ever since the start of March, after the Tar Heels beat Duke at Cameron Indoor Stadium to clinch the ACC regular season crown, UNC has been on a death march of sorts.
First the Tar Heels won the conference tourney in Washington D.C., and now over the last three weeks they seem fully intent on taking what they believe is rightfully theirs—the national championship.
Joel Berry powered through the Syracuse zone with ease on his way to a near triple-double (eight points, 10 assists, and seven rebounds) while UNC’s lovable big man tandem of Kennedy Meeks and Brice Johnson wreaked havoc in the middle—combining for 31 points and 17 rebounds— as the Tar Heels have now won every NCAA tournament game by at least 14 points on their way to the finals.
“Couldn’t be prouder for a team than I am for this team right here,” Williams said during the postgame press conference. “We beat a Syracuse team that had been great down the stretch, and is very difficult for us to play.
“These guys up here were sensational,” the coach continued, referring to Berry, Johnson, and Meeks—who were next to him at the table. “I couldn’t be having a more fantastic ride than I’m having right now.”
It was also known at the beginning of the year that the Tar Heels would struggle with their perimeter shooting. The truth is though, not even an 0-for-10 start from beyond the arc could stop them on Saturday.
Berry’s ball penetration created a number of good looks inside and helped the Tar Heels build a comfortable double-digit halftime lead.
Syracuse, however did manage to cut its deficit to just seven points after taking off on a 10-0 run midway through the second half.
Of course, then the man picked as UNC’s Player-of-the-Year candidate in the preseason—Marcus Paige—put a stop to that run with the Tar Heels’ first three of the night.
“I got a little excited on the sideline at that,” Williams said of Paige’s shot. “If you think about it, and if I had time to reflect, I’d say ‘Yes,’ that it couldn’t be more appropriate that it was Marcus Paige that did that.”
Following Paige’s big play, sophomore wing Theo Pinson stepped up and drilled a three of his own, as UNC then marched easily to victory—showing that when this Tar Heel team makes its shots from beyond the arc they’re basically unbeatable.
Pinson–the team’s Energizer Bunny who finished with five points–and senior forward Joel James—the bench celebration leader who had four points–each made solid contributions as substitutes in a balanced effort where no player shot the ball more than 12 times.
Johnson’s 16 points and 9 rebounds topped the stat sheet, but all he wanted to talk about afterwards were the team’s unsung heroes.
“Theo stepped up and really made some big-time shots,” Johnson said. “And Joel [James] too. Joel played some terrific minutes in the first half.
“That’s how we wanna play,” he continued. “We just wanna play together. It’s a team sport. We don’t really care who gets the most points. We’d rather it be spread out the way it was today.”
And that’s the thing. This special group of Tar Heels has proven all season long that they’re everything everyone thought they might be—and then some.
They’re talented, experienced, and unselfish—playing for something bigger than themselves.
Now only Villanova stands between UNC and its sixth national championship–and for Williams his third since returning to Chapel Hill in the summer of 2003.
It’s been an emotional run filled with all the clichés you can think of, but now they’re here one game away—which is why the coach took some time afterward to thank those that have inspired it.
“I really wish Stuart Scott was here tonight,” Williams said, referencing the late ESPN anchor and Tar Heel alum. “And I really wish [former UNC head coaches] Dean Smith and Bill Guthridge and my best friend in Chapel Hill, Ted Seagroves, were here.
“The last year and a half’s been awfully difficult because of all that,” he continued. “But they’re up there somewhere smiling and having a good time—and Stuart’s saying ‘Boo-yah.’”
The Tar Heels will take on the Villanova Wildcats for the title starting at 9:09 p.m. It’ll be yet another late tip time for UNC, but at least this time it’ll be with the biggest prize of them all on the line.
Monday night at the Dean Smith Center, despite a 75-70 win by the No. 8 Tar Heels over the Syracuse Orange, tears filled the arena—as fans said their goodbyes to a group of young men head coach Roy Williams dubbed his favorite team of all time.
“I don’t know if I can tell you much about the game,” an emotional Williams said afterwards. “I don’t know if I’ve ever felt as much stress over a regular season game as I did tonight.
“As soon as I got on the plane coming back from Virginia, I started feeling that,” the coach continued. “Because I just wanted Brice [Johnson], and Marcus [Paige], and Joel [James] so much to win their last home game.
“That was maybe more important to me than any other game I’ve been involved with.”
Keeping with tradition, Williams started five seniors—adding walk-ons Spenser Dalton and Justin Coleman into the group that included Paige, Johnson, and James.
The Tar Heels then improved to 24-6 and 13-4 in the ACC by relying on the team on a night celebrating the team .
Five players—led by Johnson’s 14 points—scored in double figures, and 10 different Tar Heels put points on the board throughout the game—dropping the Orange to 19-11 this year and 9-8 in the ACC.
Paige saw significantly more time at point guard than he has in previous games, racking up eight assists even though he made just two of his 10 shots–scoring only six points.
But none of those statistics mattered on this night.
All Paige and the Tar Heels wanted was a win.
“It was a special feeling I’ll never forget,” Paige said about the night’s festivities. “People have asked me during the tough times of our program, ‘Would you re-do it, would you go somewhere else?’ And I was like ‘Nah, there’s no chance.’
“This has made me such a better person,” he continued. “I’m so thankful for this.
“It’s been my dream.”
Early on the Tar Heels struggled dealing with Syracuse’s 2-3 zone, forcing up 17 three-pointers in the first half instead of going inside to the big men with regularity—their undisputed strength.
After leading by just four at halftime, Williams swapped Isaiah Hicks in for Kennedy Meeks at the post spot next to Johnson.
The results were obvious, as UNC extended its lead to 13 in the first five minutes of the second half—leading the rest of the way despite a late Syracuse push.
Although there were some butterflies in his stomach at the beginning of the night, Johnson said they quickly faded.
“They kinda just went away after a while,” Johnson said of the flying critters lodged in his abdomen. “After we had our [framed jerseys presented] I just refocused and was like, ‘Alright we still got a game to win here.’
“It’s fun and all, but I said it after the last game—I was like ‘Hey I understand it’s senior night, but at the end of the day we’re still trying to win,” he added. “And we’re trying to reach our goals.”
While the main goal on Monday was to beat Syracuse, the win also gives the Tar Heels a chance to lock up the top seed in the ACC Tournament, provided they beat Duke at Cameron Indoor Stadium this Saturday—a task easier said than done.
From there, this group of seniors—the group that has served as the faces of the university throughout the NCAA academic scandal–will look to accomplish the one thing they have yet to do, put up a banner in the Dean Dome.
“I’ve been fortunate, guys,” Williams said to reporters. “I’ve led a great career professionally. But I want those kids to have some of those feelings. I really do.
“It’s not, ‘Oh Roy, he’s being so gracious.’ That’s a bunch of junk, I’m just being truthful.
“I’ve got some championship rings, some conference rings, and all that stuff,” the coach added, before pausing and choking up a little.
“I would give so much if those kids could get something like that.”
The Tar Heels will get used to life away from Chapel Hill now, as they prepare to make the short trip over to Durham on Saturday. Then the ACC Tournament in Washington D.C. will await.
Coming off its first true road win of the season on Monday against Florida State, the No. 6 UNC men’s basketball team did it again Saturday night at the Carrier Dome—defeating the Syracuse Orange 84-73 in the midst of an emotionally charged atmosphere.
The Tar Heels jump to 15-2 this season after the victory, with each of the team’s losses coming in its first two road games of the season—at Northern Iowa and at Texas.
UNC also moves to 4-0 in the ACC for the first time in the Roy Williams era after outlasting the Orange on a night that marked a pair of returns.
Not only did Williams and the Tar Heels get junior forward Kennedy Meeks back from a bruised knee, Syracuse got its Hall-of-Fame head coach, Jim Boeheim, back from a nine-game suspension for NCAA infractions.
“I was glad to see him back,” Williams said about Boeheim. “There’s no question I think it gave their crowd a huge emotional lift, and their team as well. But we were lucky the ball went in for us.
“When I saw that his first game back was gonna be against the University of North Carolina I wasn’t the happiest guy in the world.”
With an announced crowd of over 26,000 people, it was the largest attendance recorded at a college basketball game this year. The home crowd was given a lift by senior sharpshooter Trevor Cooney, who followed a script commonly used by UNC’s opponents this year—hitting five three-pointers and scoring 27 points.
Syracuse held a six-point lead with just over seven minutes to play, but the frontcourt duo of Brice Johnson and Isaiah Hicks overcame just three points from Marcus Paige to drop the Orange to 10-7 on the year and 0-4 since conference play began.
“We were able to send ‘em home early with the great way we played in the second half,” Johnson said. “It was a great feeling for us to be able to get a win in this fantastic arena.”
Closing out games was a major problem for the Tar Heels both last season and in the team’s two losses this year.
But UNC adjusted to Syracuse’s zone defense in the second half on Saturday, with Johnson consistently finding holes on his way to a career-high 8 assists to go along with his 16 points. Hicks was the recipient of many of those passes, ending the game with 21 points as Meeks was limited to just 14 minutes in his first game back.
“That was something Brice had seen,” Hicks said. “He was like, ‘You know what? You stay there [down low], and let me go get the ball. Be ready to catch it.’
“I gotta give that to Brice,” he added.
Justin Jackson added 16 points despite battling a fever earlier in the day, and Joel Berry chipped in 14 as the Tar Heels find themselves clicking on all cylinders at the moment—no matter where they play.
That should be a good sign for the team moving forward, especially looking back at the last time UNC visited the Carrier Dome—a 57-45 loss in 2014 that Williams still hasn’t let go of.
“Two years ago we came up here and they beat us by 806 or whatever it was,” the coach said. “[Tonight] we made some mistakes. We did some dumb things. But we also made some very good basketball plays.”
Now with its full roster finally healthy–and a demonstrated ability to finish on the road–this particular Tar Heel squad has the potential to take its current eight-game winning streak and turn it into the school’s record 30th ACC regular season championship–and potentially even more.
“We’re ready to take the big step,” Hicks said. “We want to be the last team playing. But we gotta start now. We can’t wait ’til later.”
Rivalry week is upon us, as the Tar Heels will have a full seven days to prepare for next Saturday’s home game against the NC State Wolfpack (10-5).
The second-ranked North Carolina women’s lacrosse team couldn’t recover from a slow start Sunday afternoon in the ACC Championship game. The Syracuse Orange downed the Tar Heels, 9-8, in overtime sudden victory to claim their first league title in just their second year in the ACC.
With the loss, the Tar Heels dropped to 15-3 overall and 6-2 in the ACC. With the win, the Orange improved to 14-6 on the season with a 4-4 mark in the league.
The Orange players were dancing on the sidelines early and often in this one. UNC head coach Jenny Levy’s Tar Heels fell behind 3-0 with 17:17 to go in the first half.
And although UNC bravely fought back to tie the game from difficult deficits time and time again, sloppy turnovers and missed opportunities ultimately doomed Carolina.
But the Orange played well, taking full advantage of UNC miscues. It was Kayla Treanor’s fifth goal of the tournament that proved to be the decider. The thrilling overtime score sealed the conference title for Syracuse.
The loss snapped Carolina’s seven-game winning streak. Next up for the Tar Heels after an exam break, comes the NCAA Tournament. First round action begins May 8.http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/orange-upset-tar-heels-for-acc-title
With the loss, the Orange dropped to 14-7 on the season and 5-3 in league action.
***Listen to the story***
At the half, UNC head coach Roy Williams had plenty of ammo for his locker room speech. He had 13 bullets in his gun.
Those ‘bullets’ represented the 13 turnovers committed by the Tar Heels in the opening 20 minutes of action.
“First half I thought they out-competed us, and our turnovers led to 16 points, and you can’t have 13 turnovers in a half and have a team outscore you 16 to two,” Coach Williams says.
The Tar Heels cleaned up their act in the second half and certainly fared better against Syracuse’s famed zone defense this season, shooting at a 55-percent clip as a team to erase the misery that was a 57-45 loss at the Carrier Dome a year ago.
“Everything looks better when the ball goes in the basket. That’s the bottom line,” Coach Williams says.
But the victory didn’t come easy. UNC was forced to overcome a season-high 20 turnovers and withstand an offensive onslaught from Syracuse junior guard Trevor Cooney and senior forward Rakeem Christmas.
***Listen to Roy Williams’ postgame remarks***
Cooney finished with 28 points to lead all scorers while Christmas tallied 22 points and was also a perfect 10-10 from the free throw line.
But ultimately, Syracuse couldn’t keep up with the torrid offensive pace set by Carolina in the second half. Junior point guard Marcus Paige led the Tar Heel scoring charge with 22 points, including four makes from behind the arc.
But one of his teammates, upstaged him on this night. Switch-shooting sophomore Nate Britt poured in four three-pointers of his own on his way to a career-high 17 points, and according to Syracuse Hall of Fame head coach Jim Boeheim, Britt proved to be the “difference-maker”.
“I think Britt probably was the difference-maker in the game. He made four threes, and I thought that was the big difference in the game. I thought we played well. I think North Carolina just had a great second half, and that was it,” Coach Boeheim says.
***Click here for full game photo gallery***
After falling behind 7-2 early, a Paige three-pointer tied the game up at 7 points apiece with 15:45 to go in the first half.
But six quick turnovers hindered UNC’s progression, allowing the Orange a chance to capitalize on the home team’s mistakes. But Syracuse’s inefficiency on the offensive end allowed Carolina to hang close, well save for one player.
Cooney was electric, knocking down shot after shot from behind the arc, some even from NBA range. With 6:35 to play, the Orange held a 24-19 advantage.
Outside of Cooney though, the Orange were struggling to find much point production. The Tar Heels found their shooting touch and a rare successful J.P. Tokoto three-pointer was a testament to that.
Despite a whopping 13 first-half turnovers from UNC, at the intermission, Carolina trailed by a mere five points at 40-35.
Out of the locker room, it was Brice Johnson who was all fired up, providing a spark to the UNC offense and in turn, igniting the Tar Heel faithful.
A strong finish in the paint from Meeks drew a foul and the chance at a three-point play with 15:58 remaining in the contest. He converted. As a result, the Tar Heels drew within a single point at 47-46.
Per usual, Paige rose to the occasion in the second half. He popped a three with 11:30 remaining to tie the game up at 56-all.
But Christmas was imposing himself on the other end for the Orange, grabbing rebounds and working his way to the foul line.
With both offenses fully engaged, the game transformed into a back-and-forth affair. Britt joined the scoring frenzy with back-to-back three-point makes. With 7:12 to play, UNC sported a 68-62 lead.
With Christmas leading the Orange attack and Britt spurring on the Tar Heels, both defenses struggled to gain much traction down the stretch.
But it was Carolina who was able to gut out its free throws in the crucible of the tense final minutes to gutt out yet another narrow victory and send the Smith Center fans home happy.
After the game, Britt was all smiles.
“I felt like I kept getting open looks and my teammates kept looking for me, and when you have those guys telling you to shoot it, I felt like I had no choice, and so I was able to knock a few down,” Britt says.
Next up for the Tar Heels is a tough road trip out to No. 10 Louisville for a 4 p.m. tipoff Saturday afternoon in the KFC Yum Center.
The No. 15 North Carolina men’s basketball team, 16-4 overall and 6-1 in conference play, will square off with the Syracuse Orange, 14-6 on the season and 5-2 in the ACC, Monday night inside the Smith Center.
The Tar Heels will be gunning for their sixth straight victory and will welcome the Orange to Chapel Hill for the first time as a fellow ACC member.
Jim Boeheim’s squad will be looking to rebound from a 66-62 home loss to Miami Saturday afternoon at the Carrier Dome.
The quick turnaround for both teams could lead to a fatigue factor, but junior forward J.P. Tokoto says he’s not worried about the Tar Heels being ready to roll.
“We have great trainers that are going to help us take care of our bodies the next couple days. Practice is going to be a little lighter at a faster pace – working out some things that we see in film that we need to correct,” Tokoto says.
Coach Williams has been pleading for more toughness out of his players all season long, but he says he’s seen good progress in that department. But still, he’s waiting for a charge, and he’s hoping to see it Monday night.
“We’ve gotten better, we really have. James Michael McAdoo set the tone for everybody. I say one man makes a majority. If you step up, everybody will follow. Today, we had several opportunities to take a charge, and we haven’t got one yet. We’re going to get one next game. I think we’ll get one. If we don’t, we’ll have a ‘take charge’ drill in practice. We’re going to get one before I die,” Coach Williams says.
Those extra effort plays are usually the ones that decide the outcomes in the habitual down-to-the-wire games in the ACC. The tilt against the zone-heavy defense and rangy athleticism of the Orange should be no exception.
Coach Williams, though, says UNC’s defensive play is still not up to his liking, and it’s keeping him from doling out high praise to the big guys like Brice Johnson and Kennedy Meeks.
“The defense stinks. When they start playing great defense, then I’ll anoint them also. Brice – what play do you think I liked more than any play Brice made in the game? He dove on the floor,” Coach Williams says. “He didn’t get on Twitter to ask his followers if he should dive on this possession. He dove on the daggum floor and got us an extra possession to score. It was a pretty significant move.”
Syracuse’s senior forward Rakeem Christmas will put UNC’s defense to the test. Christmas is averaging 18 points per outing, tallying 23 points last time out against the Hurricanes.
And with just a day of recovery time for a Carolina squad that has lost a considerable amount of depth due to recent injuries, the ninth meeting between UNC and Syracuse figures to be a compelling contest.
The Tar Heels are Orange are locked up at 4 wins apiece all-time.http://chapelboro.com/unc-mens-basketball/tar-heels-orange-face-off-monday-night
The top-ranked North Carolina field hockey team will make its 19th final four appearance Friday after beating No. 9 Duke Sunday in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
The game winner came from senior forward Loren Shealy on a penalty corner.
Shealy says beating Duke on her home field, Francis E. Henry Stadium, was a great way to end her college career.
“I mean it’s just an amazing feeling, I really can’t describe it,” Shealy says. “It’s something you kind of dream about, like one of these games putting you into the final four. Team was awesome today and brought so much intensity, for themselves and for us, and especially for us seniors and it means the world.”
But the Tar Heels won’t be playing on their home turf for their NCAA tournament semifinal game. They will face a familiar ACC foe – No. 4 Syracuse in College Park, Md.
UNC Coach Karen Shelton says the game will be evenly matched.
“We have some motivation, but they’ll have some motivation as well,” Shelton says. “I would expect an even match. They’ve got strengths and so do we.”
The two teams have played against each other twice this year. The Orange beat the Tar Heels in the ACC Tournament, winning 3-2 in overtime, but UNC won the regular season game 3-0.
“I think that it will be the rubber match, so we beat them in the regular season and they beat us in the ACC Tournament,” Shelton says. “I think we’ll prepare a little bit better and I think that we’ll play better.”
This will be UNC’s sixth consecutive final four appearance. The six-time NCAA champions lost to Connecticut in the NCAA semifinals last year.http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/1-unc-takes-4-syracuse-final-four
The UNC men’s basketball team eases into its 2014-15 campaign, but the newly released schedule is highlighted by some high-level opponents.
The new 15-member Atlantic Coast Conference is stacked with talent bringing Louisville to the mix this year after Syracuse, Pittsburgh, and Notre Dame joined last year. The Tar Heels face the Cardinals in a home-and-home conference series this season; Carolina faces Syracuse and Notre Dame in the Smith Center and will travel to Pittsburgh.
Only one of the UNC-Duke matchups is scheduled to be carried on both ESPN and the ACC Network this year. The rivalry is the only contest carried by two networks. The ACC Network could very well still pick up the season finale in Chapel Hill on March 7.
Out of conference, the Tar Heels travel to Lexington, Kentucky to face the Wildcats in mid-December. Last year, Kentucky traveled to Chapel Hill where Carolina handed out the 82-77 defeat of Wildcats.
Over the Thanksgiving holiday, UNC travels to the Bahamas for the Battle 4 Atlantis. Carolina opens the tournament on Paradise Island against Butler and will face two other opponents out of the group of Oklahoma, UCLA, UAB, Florida, Georgetown, or Wisconsin.
Those dying to get to basketball season, you’ll be happy. Late Night with Roy comes three weeks earlier this year. The unofficial season tipoff is October 3.
The ACC officially announced the 2014-15 schedules Wednesday.http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/unc-mens-basketball-schedule-released
After starting 0-2 in ACC play, the Carolina men’s lacrosse team was in a world of trouble. But now, the Tar Heels are No. 4 in the nation and will be playing for a potential No. 1 seed in the ACC Tournament when they take on No. 7 Syracuse this Saturday.
***Listen to the story***
Head Coach Joe Breschi couldn’t say enough positive things about the way his team played in a crucial ACC game against rival Virginia.
“I’m proud of our guys. Virginia is a terrific lacrosse team, top ten in the country. How hard we played for 60 minutes – we’ve been stressing that all year,” Coach Breschi says.
The ACC race is loaded with the ‘who’s who’ of college lacrosse. Each and every game seemingly features two top ten teams facing off.
Senior Frankie Kelly says the Virginia win provided the team with more of a sense of relief than jubilation. Kelly knew it was a must-win scenario.
Coach Breschi agrees. But he says it only makes this weekend’s game at Syracuse inside the Carrier Dome that much bigger.
“This was big. We’re now at 2-2. We feel pretty good with where we’re at. We have to go up to Syracuse now, and they’re fighting for their playoff life in the ACC. There’s a lot in front of us, but I’m just proud of taking another step forward,” Coach Breschi says.
Senior midfielder R.G. Keenan has supplied some timely late-game magic for the Tar Heels in his career. And Keenan will be hoping to hold a few more tricks up his sleeve as his playing days at Chapel Hill come to an end.
And as another lacrosse season winds down, Coach Breschi salutes the impact of Keenan, Kelly and the rest of the senior class.
“We got a great group of 12 seniors. They’ve done a wonderful job all year leading this group. To finish like this is wonderful for them,” Coach Breschi says.
One promising sign for the Tar Heels moving forward is the continued development of the defense. It was UNC’s stingy defense down the stretch that served as a catalyst to the victory over the Cavaliers.
The Tar Heels’ battle with the perennial powerhouse Orange will be a historic one. The two squads haven’t played each other since 1996. The collision is scheduled for 6 p.m. Saturday and will be nationally televised on ESPNU.http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/tenacious-tar-heel-mens-lax-fights-acc-supremacy-weekend
***Listen to the story***
With the come-from-behind win, the Orange improved to 16-5 overall and 5-3 in conference play.
Defensive intensity along with superior athleticism proved too much for the visiting team to handle early on in the contest as UNC established a 46-32 halftime lead, but the Orange settled in and built confidence when outside shots started to fall in the second half, eventually overtaking Carolina and never looking back. The poise of the youthful Tar Heels was challenged down the stretch, and some sloppy turnovers doomed their chances at a victory.
Diamond DeShields led the Tar Heels in scoring with 21 points, but it wasn’t enough to overcome the sharpshooting of Syracuse’s Brittney Sykes and Brianna Butler, who posted 17 and 22 points respectively.
After the game, Assistant coach Ivory Latta stressed the importance of moving on and having a short-term memory with a tough game against Miami on tap for Sunday.
***Listen to Assistant Coach Ivory Latta’s postgame remarks***
Syracuse won the opening tip and scored the first points of the game to shoot out to a 4-0 lead. The first basket for North Carolina was thanks to Allisha Gray. DeShields followed those points up with a make of her own to close the Carolina within two at 6-4.
The Orange continued to shoot lights out early on, but Gray’s outside three-pointer closed the gap to 9-7 with 17:26 to play in the first half.
With 15:50 remaining on the first half clock, it was the visiting team in orange that held the 9-8 edge in an entertaining, up-tempo style game.
DeShields dropped in a fast break opportunity to keep the Tar Heels on pace with the Orange. Xylina McDaniel scored her first basket of the game to give UNC its largest lead of the game at 4 points. With 11:54 to play, Carolina held a 15-11 lead.
Danielle Butts grabbed a contested rebound and put back the shot to increase the UNC advantage midway through the first half of play. The fast pace of play was feeding right into the hands of the Tar Heels as they built a 21-13 lead with 9:48 on the clock.
It was the defensive intensity of the Tar Heels that was doing the damage, and the Carolina offense remained efficient by building a 27-13 advantage at the 8:08 first half mark with superior athleticism.
Stephanie Mavunga was running the floor with ease, earning easy layups to further extend the UNC advantage in Carmichael Arena. The lead sat at 31-16 with just over six minutes to go in the opening half.
Butts jumped up to seven points on the night with a make from outside the three-point line to ignite the crowd. The Orange were providing little resistance to the Tar Heel attack as Gray darted inside for a powerful layup.
The offensive explosion continued, and with under four minutes to play in the half, Carolina posted a 40-22 advantage.
At the half, the Tar Heels had amassed a 46-32 lead.
DeShields wasted no time to score for the Tar Heels with a smooth make to continue the momentum right out of the second half gates. Syracuse responded with a a couple timely three-pointers to hang around. Carolina held on to a 52-40 lead with 16:51 left to play in the game.
A 54-42 advantage at the 15:41 mark was reduced by a three-point bucket by Syracuse’s Rachel Coffey, who had a hot hand on the night.
The dynamic play of Gray continued to be put on display with good court awareness to grab a pass by Mavunga and score. Syracuse’s Brianna Butler knocked down a shot from behind the arc to trim the Carolina lead further. The intensity and effort from the Orange was ratcheting up midway through the second half. The lead was down to a mere six points with 9:28 to go in the game.
The first points of the game by Latifah Coleman couldn’t have come at a better time as the Tar Heels maintained a four-point advantage with under seven minutes to play. The game had turned into a nailbiter with both teams scrambling for control with the game locked up at 65 points.
DeShields broke the tie with a clutch jump shot, but Butler replied with a make on the other end of the floor to knot the game back up with 3:30 to play in the contest. Mavunga came up with a massive defensive block that DeShields then turned into a layup on the offensive end. The Tar Heels took the 69-67 lead with 3:11 to play, but a technical foul was called on Mavunga.
Butler nailed a massive three-pointer with one second remaining on the shot clock to stake her team out to a three-point advantage that Syracuse used to claim the come from behind victory against the stunned Tar Heels.