UNC Sports Weekend Offered Up Plenty

With fall sports conducting NCAA playoffs and basketball season now in full swing, it was an eventful weekend for Tar Heel athletics. UNC athletes experienced both the thrill of victory and the bitter taste of defeat.

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The UNC men’s and women’s basketball teams have hit the road with desirable final destinations. The men are Bahamas bound, while the women are headed to Hawaii.

But the two squads made quick pit stops over the weekend. The men stopped in Charlotte to take on the sharp-shooting Davidson Wildcats Saturday inside Time Warner Cable Arena.

Meeks slamming it down (Todd Melet)

Meeks slamming it down (Todd Melet)

The sixth-ranked Tar Heels used an in-form defense to cool the Wildcats off and emerge with a comfortable 90-72 win to improve to 3-0 on the young season.

UNC head coach Roy Williams says he was pleased with his team’s play, especially on the defensive side of the floor.

“I think we beat a very good basketball team that is a difficult matchup for us. I thought defensively, it was by far our best game of the year,” Coach Williams says.

Sophomore Kennedy Meeks was impressive, finishing with 19 points and 12 rebounds. But Coach Williams says Meeks is still figuring out how to play in his new slimmed-down frame.

“I think it’s a day-to-day thing. We’ve got to get his mind correct – that he does have a different body and can do certain things. He’s giving me the tired signal, then goes out there, denies the pass 45-feet from the basket and goes down and dunks,” Coach Williams says. “I’ve told him all the time to give me the tired signal when he goes back on offense, not defense. He just doesn’t realize what his body can do right now.”

As for the women, they met up with the Oregon Ducks in Eugene Sunday and after a sluggish start that may have been credited to jetlag; the Tar Heels poured it on in the second half to run away with an emphatic 76-59 triumph and up their record to 4-0.

UNC head coach Sylvia Hatchell’s halftime adjustments paid off. With the three-point shots misfiring, the Hall of Fame coach made it simple for her players – just dominate inside. The Tar Heels did just that.

“Offensively, we got the ball inside. I told them at halftime that our advantage is to get the ball inside. They can’t stop us. We’re out there jacking up all these threes. They weren’t going in. Everything we did [in second half] was to get the ball inside,” Coach Hatchell says.

After the game, Coach Hatchell says she received a special compliment from one of the officials.

“We want to just keep getting and better as a team. I really love this team. They’re great kids. In fact, right at the end of the game, one of the referees said to me, ‘It’s such a privilege and honor to call for your team because not only are you skilled, but your ladies are so classy.’ That’s pretty special. The image of how they represent themselves and especially the University of North Carolina, is tremendous,” Coach Hatchell says.

Danielle Butts dives to save the ball (UNC Athletics)

Danielle Butts dives to save the ball (UNC Athletics)

But not all UNC’s teams came out on the right end of the scoreboard over the weekend. There will be no 22nd national championship this year for the Carolina women’s soccer team.

The Tar Heel women were upset 1-0 by South Carolina in the third round of the NCAA Tournament Sunday afternoon at Fetzer Field.

UNC head coach Anson Dorrance says despite the setback, he was proud of his team’s accomplishments this season that included a share of the ACC regular season title.

“I’m proud of my senior class. We had really good leadership. If you look at our season overall, we certainly overachieved. We were conference co-champs with Florida State and a No.2 seed in the NCAA Tournament. That’s pretty good for a team that was without ten starters from the previous year. But the day obviously goes to South Carolina,” Coach Dorrance says.

For the seniors, the loss was especially tough to take. Senior Satara Murray, though, says she couldn’t have asked for a better four years as a Tar Heel.

It was a disappointing day for the UNC women's soccer team (UNC Athletics)

It was a disappointing day for the UNC women’s soccer team (UNC Athletics)

“All in all, I had a fantastic year. I had fun. It was an amazing four years. I’m excited to see what the future has in store, but I love playing with this team every minute, every game. These girls fought for one another, and I couldn’t be more thankful for that. Credit goes to my team for making this an unforgettable and memorable four years,” Murray says.

In other action, the UNC men had better luck on the soccer pitch, defeating tenth-seeded Charlotte 2-1 in rainy conditions Sunday to survive and advance to the third round of the NCAA Tournament.

The Tar Heels will face the winner of the Clemson-Coastal Carolina match to be played Monday.

And last but certainly not least, the Carolina volleyball team continues to serve up a storm. This time, the No. 7 Tar Heels bagged a 3-1 win over the Louisville Cardinals Sunday afternoon in Cardinal Arena.

UNC head coach Joe Sagula’s 24-2 team will wrap up the regular season this week with a pair of home matches – a rivalry encounter against No. 21 Duke and an ACC matchup with Wake Forest.

UNC Toughs Out Top-25 Win Over OK State

The eleventh-ranked North Carolina women’s basketball team remains undefeated thanks to a 79-77 nail-biter victory against No. 21 Oklahoma State Wednesday evening in Carmichael Arena.

The Cowgirls have now fallen to 2-1, while North Carolina remains unscathed at 3-0.

This was Carolina’s first tough game of the season, one that Head Coach Sylvia Hatchell says the ladies will benefit from before their road game stretch against even higher-ranked opponents.

“Well I think we’re very balanced, we’ve got good leadership with the seniors, we’ve got depth,” Coach Hatchell says. “And I’m very confident so it’s good to be able to put the different (players) in there, and we’re going to get better and better with our outside shooting and learning a little bit more of when to take those shots. So we’ll get smarter as we go along.”

OSU’s highest scorer, Brittany Martin, who averaged 24.5 points per contest before the night’s game, was out early in both halves due to foul trouble. OSU Head Coach Jim Littell, who coached his squad to a 25-9 record last season, says Martin’s low minutes made a significant difference in the development of his team’s offense.

Brittany Rountree (left), Xylina McDaniel and Stephanie Mavunga (UNC Athletics)

Brittany Rountree (left), Xylina McDaniel and Stephanie Mavunga (UNC Athletics)

“She got two fouls guarding the ball at the wrong end of the court, and that was a factor in the game for us,” Coach Littell says. “She’d scored 24 in game one, 27 in game two; but she played 16 minutes tonight and it was basically because of silly fouls. We got what we deserved on that. But we’ve got a long way to go, we lost a couple really good players last year and we’re trying to find our way right now of how we need to play. It was better tonight but we’re disappointed because we felt like we had a chance to win the game.”

The night started out a lot like any other UNC game this season, as reigning leading scorer Allisha Gray came out with a hot hand, and scored the first 8 points of the match. A bucket by sophomore Stephanie Mavunga started off Carolina’s early 10-0 run.

Minutes later, that lead was cut, and OSU’s Brittany Atkins came back with a big three-point shot to tie the game back up at 15 with just under 13 minutes left in the half. The Cowgirls took their first lead of the game that next possession with a strong drive to the basket by senior Lashawn Jones, who finished the night with 16 points and 13 rebounds.

UNC battled back to give themselves more breathing room with 3 minutes to play, creating a nine-point lead off of a beautiful in-bounds play from Gray to senior Danielle Butts, with an assist back down to Gray who finished with a lay-up on the baseline. Consecutive three’s by Oklahoma native Jessica Washington and an and-1 score by Butts closed the half with the Tar Heels on top at 40-29. OSU guard Roshunda Johnson dominated the second half and kept the Tar Heels from running away with the lead, shooting 3 for 4 from behind the arc and 6-10 from the field to finish with 21 points.

Johnson’s strong drive to the basket and a full court pass to Jones in the post brought OSU within 6 points of Carolina at 50-44 and caused UNC’s Hall of Fame coach to call a timeout. UNC senior Brittany Rountree emerged from that break with her first and only made three-pointer of the game, a depressing statistic after her 17-point performance scoring four three-pointers against UCLA Sunday.

Three consecutive baskets by the Cowgirls gave them their first lead since 12:47 of the first half at 65-63, with 5:40 left to play. Junior Xylina McDaniel stole the ball and traveled coast to coast to score. Mavunga then put the Heels back on top with an and-1 lay-up. She missed the extra point, which was rebounded by Allisha Gray and sent cross-court to Rountree for a field goal.

With 1:14 left to play, Gray fouled OSU’s Martin who was sent to the free throw line and made both of her shots to cut the Heels’ lead to 77-74. After breaking OSU’s press, Mavunga went up for lay-up and was called for an offensive foul with one minute left to play, much to the joy of Oklahoma State’s bench. Another big 3 by Johnson tied the game at 77 points.

Senior Latifah Coleman dished a pass to Stephanie Mavunga for the last basket of the game with 30 seconds left. Oklahoma State made one last attempt to extend the game with a “Hail Mary” pass inbounds, but it was stolen out of the air by Gray to seal the Tar Heels’ victory.

Five Tar Heels scored in double figures, as Stephanie Mavunga and Xylina McDaniel collected double-doubles and Allisha Gray led all scorers with 22 points.

Carolina heads west to begin a string of road games for the next month, beginning with Oregon Sunday at 6 p.m. ET on the Pac-12 Network.


Tar Heels Face Cowgirls In Top-25 Matchup

The North Carolina women’s basketball team continues its stretch of facing tough foes when it hosts Oklahoma State Wednesday night in Carmichael Arena.

The No. 11 Tar Heels should have a battle on their hands with the No. 21 Cowgirls, according to UNC head coach Sylvia Hatchell.

Coach Hatchell is confident her team can and will improve as the month progresses. A challenging schedule, she says, can only help in the long run.

“We’re looking forward to some really big games, with Oregon and Stanford,” Coach Hatchell says. “It’s going to be a really tough road.”

Brittany Rountree, who scored 16 points in the Tar Heels big win over UCLA, says strong passing and good ball movement key’s the team’s success. UNC had 19 assists while the Bruins had just 12, for instance, in Sunday’s contest.

“The transition or turnovers played a big role, but our guards also did a great job of finding us (with passes),” Rountree says.

The game between the Top 25 teams is set for tip-off at 6 p.m.

Allisha Gray Leads Heels To Victory Over UCLA

The thirteenth-ranked North Carolina women’s basketball remains undefeated after beating the No. 23 UCLA Bruins 84-68 Sunday afternoon in Carmichael Arena. With the win, the Tar Heels improved to 2-0 on the season.

The Bruins have now dropped to 0-2 this season and are now 4-5 against the Tar Heels all-time.

After scoring 30 points against UCLA almost a year ago today, Allisha Gray still continues to shine on the court and once again, led her team in scoring with 19 points and 6 rebounds.

“She had 30 against us last year so you would think we might have learned our lesson,”  Bruin head coach Cori Close says. “It’s a credit to her, she’s a really good player and she can do a lot of different things to hurt you. You can’t just take away Gray’s three-point shot; she exposes any other weaknesses in your defense.”

Gray has been UNC’s leading scorer in every game so far, including exhibition play.

The Tar Heels tipped off the contest with a 2-0 advantage, caused by an administrative technical on the Bruins.

Those free throws were shot by senior Brittany Rountree, who had a fantastic shooting night, scoring four three-pointers and shooting 5-6 from the free-throw line.

Perimeter shots from Gray, freshman Jamie Cherry, and sophomore Jessica Washington gave the Heels the shot consistency they’ve been waiting for to pick apart the Bruins’ zone defense.

Carolina began to pull away early in the first half when Washington nailed a big shot assisted by Megan Buckland. UNC then regained possession of the ball and quickly in-bounded for a score from Hillary Summers to set the score at 20-12.

UCLA was led on the attack by  Nirra Fields, who scored a total 21 points and shot 8-24 from the field.

The Bruins went on an 11-3 run to close the gap and end the half at a 45-40 Carolina lead.

Mavunga and Gray both checked out of the game after receiving their fourth foul apiece in consecutive plays, but missing their preseason All-ACC selections didn’t slow the Tar Heels down one bit. They continued on an 8-0 run to put themselves up 20 with a 66-46 lead.

UCLA outrebounded UNC and was able to battle back and come within 8 points of the Heels with just under seven minutes to play, but Carolina coasted past the Bruins to extend the lead and seal the win.

Xylina McDaniel also made a strong contribution for Carolina with her 16-point and 8-rebound performance, alongside Washington and Cherry, who both netted 10 points apiece.

Carolina will play its third consecutive home game against No. 21 Oklahoma State on Wednesday. The game will be televised on ESPN3 and broadcast on 97.9 FM, WCHL.


UNC WBB Sweeps Howard In Hatchell’s Return

In an almost exhibition-like opener against Howard University, the Tar Heels grabbed an 83-49 victory Friday afternoon in Carmichael Arena.

North Carolina can attribute their first win of the season to certain kind of good luck charm –Hall of Fame Coach Sylvia Hatchell was back on the Tar Heel bench for her 29th season after a battle with Leukemia kept her away from coaching last year.

Junior forward Xylina McDaniel says seeing her coach healthy again was a warm feeling.

“It actually felt like my freshman year all over again,” McDaniel says. “Since we had her for the exhibition games it wasn’t that different, but just being able to have her back brought me back to my freshman year, and that was a good year. It made me happy, it made everybody happy.”

Roy Williams dropped by to welcome Hatchell back to sidelines (UNC Athletics)

Roy Williams dropped by to welcome Hatchell back to sidelines (UNC Athletics)

Hatchell says she also feels the familial bond of the team is strong.

“It’s so much fun because they are my reward, and I don’t take it for granted,” Hatchell says. “The times that I’m out there with them, the opportunities I have to be with them, that’s what gets me going everyday.”

Coach Hatchell and Andrew Calder (UNC Athletics)

Coach Hatchell and Andrew Calder (UNC Athletics)

Friday’s game was a slow offensive start for both teams, as the Heels had a 4-2 lead after the first five minutes of play. Two ties and four lead changes later, Carolina finally clinched a solid lead late in the first half to end with a 46-24 lead.

Fast breaks were Carolina’s key scoring opportunities in exhibition play, and yet again fueled another high-scoring match and blowout victory. The Heels closed the first half with a 30-8 run over the Bison, after senior Brittany Rountree netted a three-pointer that sparked the team’s momentum.

Allisha Gray led all scorers in the first half with 12 points and nine rebounds, while junior Xylina McDaniel followed with 11 points on 4-7 shooting.

The Howard Bison shot 9-25 in the first half, and had three players in foul trouble with three penalties apiece.

Carolina’s scoring intensity continued into the second half, as senior guard Latifah Coleman’s three steals continued to stifle Howard’s offense.

A host of missed lay-ups from Carolina and big shots for Howard cut the lead to less than 30 with 6:21 to play, but a quick timeout call from Coach Hatchell allowed for the break her squad needed to solidify the lopsided win.

Four Tar Heels finished in double digits in scoring, as McDaniel finished with 16, Gray with 19, freshman Jamie Cherry with 12, and Rountree with 10 points. Senior forward Cheyenne Brown was the only Lady Bison to score in double digits, finishing with 14 points and 10 rebounds before fouling out of the contest.

North Carolina will take on No. 23 UCLA at home Sunday at 2 p.m.

UNC WBB, WSoc Battle at Home Friday

Friday marks a new beginning for two Tar Heel women’s teams as women’s basketball begins its regular season at home against Howard at 4 p.m. and UNC women’s soccer begins the first round of competition for the NCAA title at Fetzer Field.

UNC women’s basketball is coming off of two blowout exhibition wins over Carson Newman and Wingate University. Sylvia Hatchell’s Heels will take on the Howard Bisons on Friday at 4 p.m., who finished 11-20 in last year’s season.

Coach Hatchell has seen many pros and cons from her team so far, praising freshman guard Jamie Cherry and preseason All-ACC selection sophomore Allisha Gray, after impressive scoring performances in Monday’s win over Wingate.

Allisha Gray (Courtesy of

Allisha Gray (UNC Athletics)

“These guys did a great job and everybody played – I thought a lot of people came off the bench and played well tonight,” Hatchell said. “For a freshman, Jamie just keeps getting better and better out there as she relaxes and becomes more comfortable with the game. Allisha’s got great numbers but her (three-point shot) isn’t falling like it always does, I think she’s saving that.”

Even though the Tar Heels came close to scoring triple-digits in both contests, Hatchell expects even more out of her team’s offensive power – and more points from perimeter shooting.

Coach Hatchell will lead her Tar Heel women's basketball team (WUNC)

Coach Hatchell will lead her Tar Heel women’s basketball team (WUNC)

“We’ve got a lot of really good three-point shooters, I think a lot of (the problem) is nobody’s playing a zone. And so most of our scoring is either on fast breaks or off drives.”

North Carolina will also host the No. 23 UCLA Bruins Sunday at 2 p.m. in Carmichael Arena.

After a heartbreaking 2-0 loss in the ACC Tournament semifinals to the Virginia Cavaliers, women’s soccer head coach Anson Dorrance is looking ahead to beating South Dakota State Friday, and continuing the program’s strong tradition of national championships.

“Even though we’ve been knocked out by a very good Virginia team, we think we’ll have an opportunity to compete in the NCAA tournament. We’re hoping to be placed as a number two seed and we’re hoping this game will show us what we need to work on a bit, so we can continue to improve.”

In their first loss since August, Carolina now sits at a 12-3-2 record. The Tar Heels are in the running for a national title as the No. 2 seed, their eighth recorded time at the tournament spot.

South Dakota State finished atop the Summit League conference with a 10-7-2 record.

North Carolina has been in the NCAA tournament competition every year since its start in 1982. If the Tar Heels are to beat the Jackrabbits Friday, they will host the NCAA second and third round games in Chapel Hill at Fetzer Field.

The game starts at 5 p.m.

UNC Women Roll In Hatchell’s Return, 88-27

The UNC women’s basketball team rolled over Carson-Newman, 88-27, in an exhibition game Wednesday night in Carmichael Arena.

Sophomore Allisha Gray scored 22 points to lead the way. Fellow sophomore Stephanie Mavunga added eight points and eight rebounds, and freshman Jamie Cherry scored 13. Xylina McDaniel scored the first bucket of the game and ended with 15 points; Danielle Butts had a double-double off the bench, 10 points and 12 rebounds.

UNC scored the first 10 points of the game and never looked back. Carson-Newman shot just 18 percent from the floor.

This was the first exhibition game of the year for the UNC women – and it also marked head coach Sylvia Hatchell’s return to the sideline. She missed all last year while fighting leukemia.

UNC has one more exhibition game next Monday before opening its season on Friday, November 14, against Howard in Carmichael Arena.

UNC WBB – And Hatchell – Return Tonight

The UNC women’s basketball team hits the court tonight for an exhibition match against Carson-Newman, at 6 pm in Carmichael Arena.

Head coach Sylvia Hatchell will be back on the sidelines after missing all of last year to fight leukemia. Tonight’s game will be a special one for Coach Hatchell for two reasons: Carson-Newman is her alma mater.

The Carolina women host one more exhibition next Monday at 6 pm against Wingate before the season officially begins next Friday. The Tar Heels will face Howard in their season opener, also in Carmichael at 4 pm.

AP Preseason Polls UNC MBB No. 6, WBB No. 13

Carolina men’s basketball has once again landed a Top-10 ranking in the preseason as the Associated Press list the Tar Heels at No. 6 in the polls. This is Carolina’s highest preseason AP ranking since before the 2011-2012 season, in which they were ranked at No. 1.

North Carolina comes in behind basketball powerhouses Kentucky, Arizona, Wisconsin, Duke and Kansas, respectively.

The Tar Heels have achieved a Top-10 ranking in the AP poll in 52 of the poll’s 66 seasons. USA Today’s Coaches Poll also named the Tar Heels sixth-best in the nation.

The AP has also released its women’s basketball preseason list, in which Carolina places at No. 13.

Even after the transfer of last year’s scoring leader, Diamond DeShields, and just one incoming freshman this season, UNC has only dropped one spot from the 2013-14 season rankings.

Carolina has been listed in the Associated Press’ Top-25 rankings 12 times in the last 13 seasons.

DeShields Commits To Lady Vols

KNOXVILLE, TN — The mother of former North Carolina star Diamond DeShields says her daughter is transferring to Tennessee.

Tisha DeShields confirmed via text message Thursday that Diamond has committed to the Lady Vols. The news was reported earlier Thursday by the Knoxville News-Sentinel. Diamond shared the news on Instagram and Twitter Thursday evening.

WCHL reported in mid-April that sources close to DeShields said Tennessee was already a done deal.

DeShields, the2013-14 Atlantic Coast Conference freshman of the year, averaged 18 points per game this past season to help North Carolina go 27-10 and reach a regional final. Under NCAA rules, DeShields would have to sit out a year before being eligible to play for Tennessee.

North Carolina coach Sylvia Hatchell announced April 17 that the 6-foot-1 guard from Norcross, Georgia, planned to transfer.

DeShields’ mother was an All-America heptathlete for the Tennessee women’s track team in 1991 when she was known as Tisha Milligan.