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Tar Heels Take Down GT in First Round of ACC’s

Stephanie Mavunga led the Tar Heels to the quarterfinals of the ACC Tournament Thursday night with a game-high 23 points over Georgia Tech in an 84-64 win in Greensboro. Carolina is a No. 6 seed in the tournament and is lifted to a 24-7 overall record.

Mavunga also finished the night with 16 rebounds and 8 blocks. She said she felt tonight was one of the best night’s to make a statement.

“I really had to step up big,” Mavunga said. “Especially after having such a bad game last game at Duke, I felt like I had let my team down and needed to step up tonight.”

Just before halftime, UNC thought it would take a break with a 13-point lead, until Tech guard Antonia Peresson shot an impressive half court shot at the buzzer to bring them behind the Heels 37-27.

Carolina went through a short scare at the beginning of the second half when Allisha Gray went down hard on the court with an apparent right ankle injury.

“During the game when Allisha got knocked down, I didn’t like that,” Mavunga said. “And seeing her like that made me furious, it ticked me off and actually motivated me.”

When Gray checked back in after a quick trip to the locker room, UNC found their sync and took over on the court in the final minutes – never letting Georgia Tech get back in within seven points.

Coming behind Mavunga in scoring was Gray with 14 points and three assists alongside Latifah Coleman with 10 points on 40 percent three-point shooting.

UNC shot 50 percent from the floor and scored 21 points off of the Yellow Jackets’ 18 turnovers.

Georgia Tech was led by Kaela (KAY-luh) Davis and Zaire (Z-eye-AIR) O’Neil with 14 points apiece while Aaliyah Whiteside added 13.

On Friday, UNC will meet Louisville as they make their ACC Tournament debut. The Tar Heels are hoping to redeem themselves from the 75-66 loss at Louisville in February.

WBB to Open ACC Tournament on Thursday at 8 p.m.

North Carolina is headed back to the ACC Women’s Basketball Tournament in the Greensboro Coliseum as a No. 6 seed. Although the seeding by no means favors the Tar Heels to win the title, Carolina holds two All-ACC First Team selections on its roster – sophomores Allisha Gray and Stephanie Mavunga.

Out of the four schools to be placed in the top seeds in the bracket, UNC only beat one of them this season. Gray led Carolina with 22 points to force an upset victory over No. 7 Florida State last month in Carmichael Arena.

“At this point in the year I think every team is a little beat up, and it is that time of year when all the ACC teams are so tough, especially on the road. You can get banged up but so much of it is mental, it’s just a mentality. That’s why I challenge the seniors because it’s their team and they’ve got to lead the way in tough situations like this.”

This is the second straight year UNC has been the 6 seed. The Tar Heels advanced to the semifinals in 2014 before a 66-61 loss to Duke.

In the final game of the regular season on Sunday, UNC faced their rival and envisioned ending the game by spoiling Duke’s senior day. However, they suffered a one-point loss in Cameron Indoor to complete the Blue Devils’ sweep.

It was then that head coach Sylvia Hatchell realized that her team would need to develop more heart to compensate for their disadvantages in height.

“Between now and the time we go to Greensboro we’re going to take boxing lessons,” Coach Hatchell said. “Because we’ve got to get tougher if we’re going to be able to battle inside and hold our own in there.”

Coach Hatchell has repeatedly made it a point to judge her team’s success not only by a higher number of points at the end of the game, but also a higher number of rebounds.

As ACC play deepened, UNC was often beaten on the glass as they depended on their speed for offensive opportunities. While Stephanie Mavunga stands at 6’3”, she is often listed as undersized compared to many frontcourt players on ACC program rosters. Mavunga still manages to lead her team in rebounds with 8.7 per game, which places her at eighth-best in the conference.

“We’re a fast break team so steals are great for us,” junior guard N’Dea Bryant said. “I feel like we finish well and that’s what Carolina basketball is about – getting steals and getting fast break points so it’s normal really, it’s what we’re here to do.”

On Thursday at 8 p.m, the first match for the Tar Heels is a game against the winner of the 11th seed Georgia Tech and 14th seed Clemson match-up.

After suffering their first conference loss to Pitt in early January, Carolina made a run at redemption by defeating Georgia Tech in Carmichael Arena, 96-81.

Also, in mid-January, sophomore guard Jessica Washington scored a career-high 20 points to defeat Clemson 78-56 on the road. Washington netted 4 three-pointers to give Carolina its third conference win.

UNC Ends Season with Loss in Cameron Indoor

North Carolina envisioned ending its season with a Duke senior day spoiler in Cameron Indoor and a chance to reclaim a win they lost in overtime in the last rivalry meeting. Although UNC almost made history by netting 14 threes against the Blue Devils, it was not enough to overcome Duke’s 81-80 win on Sunday afternoon.

UNC finished its regular season with a 23-7 record and heads into the ACC tournament with a 10-6 conference mark. Duke has finished with a 20-9 record and they are 11-5 in the ACC, gaining a four-seed in the tournament.

“Between now and the time we go to Greensboro, we’re going to take some boxing lessons,” UNC head coach Sylvia Hatchell said. “We’re going to get some gloves out and go at it to get a little tougher. We have got to get tougher if we’re going to be able to battle inside.”

Carolina had a solid chance to win the game early, but Duke used its height and strength on the inside to beat UNC in a game of runs.

Out of the halftime break, UNC played the worst eight minutes of basketball it has all season. Duke was able to outscore the Tar Heels 25 to 4 on its return from the locker room. Carolina hit a peak in turnovers, suffered from a four-minute scoring drought and was forced to bench Stephanie Mavunga and Brittany Rountree as they got in very deep foul trouble.

“Coming out in the second half, we just couldn’t get things going,” coach Hatchell said. “I kept thinking we were but they came out (strong) in the second half. Sometimes I’d almost rather be a point or two behind at half time, so that way we can come out with an edge at halftime instead of being ahead. They came out and came at us hard and heavy and physical and won that battle.”

However, North Carolina tied a program record high with 14 treys made – a career-night that was established quite recently in December of 2013. Carolina netted five from both Allisha Gray and Jessica Washington Washington and two apiece from seniors Latifah Coleman and Rountree.

“I would have hoped we had done a better job on the shooters honestly whether it’s #15 (Gray) or #11 (Rountree),” Duke Head Coach Joanne P. McCallie said. “But I think we made up for it in other places and I think that’s where shooting can be overrated.”

The offense was still missing a few key pieces. Stephanie Mavunga struggled after being double-teamed by Duke every minute she was on the floor, which is why she was unable to score a field goal until 4:37 remained in the game. Mavunga still managed to finish the game with 11 points.

In the final minute, UNC made numerous attempts to cover the ground and cut the margin it let extend early in the second half. With Duke committing 3 turnovers and UNC on an 8-0 run, Mavunga had a clean-up layup that set the score at 78-77 with 30.4 seconds left.

Duke’s Azura Stevens was fouled by UNC and made her freethrows, except for one that allowed Gray to push down to the end of the court for a last second shot attempt. It didn’t fall, and when Coleman made a Hail Mary pass to Gray again for a three, it was one-point too late.

“I don’t think they were more physical but I do think, like Coach Hatchell said, height was a problem,” Gray said. “We played physical too because we fought back from being down by double digits with four minutes left and we had a comeback to bring the game back down within two.”

Azura Stevens finished with a game high 21 points and 12 rebounds for the Blue Devils. Rebecca Greenwell added 19 shooting 60 percent from the three and Elizabeth Williams finished with 18 in her final game in Cameron Indoor.

Carolina will enter the ACC Tournament with the No. 6 seed and is set to face wither 11th seed Georgia Tech or 14th Clemson Thursday at 8 p.m. in the Greensboro Coliseum.


Mavunga Saves UNC With Last Second Shot

A buzzer-beater lay-up by sophomore Stephanie Mavunga carried the North Carolina women’s basketball team to a 72-70 win over Virginia on Thursday in their final game of the season in historic Carmichael Arena. With the win, No. 15 North Carolina now has a 23-6 overall record and a 10-5 standing in the ACC. The Cavaliers have dropped to 16-12 this season and have closed ACC play at with a 6-9 record.

After tip-off, UVA got ahead to a tremendous start and scored the first nine points of the game. Just when it looked like they would be dominating the night with their high three-point accuracy, Mavunga and junior guard N’Dea Bryant led an 8-0 run on the comeback charge for the Tar Heels. UVA had a 12-point first half advantage over UNC, but that was quickly snapped as Carolina went on a 15-2 run to close out the half with a 35-33 lead.

UVA was led by Faith Randolph who finished with a game-high 24 points on 4-5 shooting from behind the arc.
Carolina led by as many as 10 points after the midgame break until that lead was crushed by a late scoring showdown from Randolph, who led the Hoos in the fight back to a tie at 70 points with 22 seconds left.

However, for UNC’s offensive power, the second half was all Stephanie.

With only seven seconds to play, Allisha Gray attempted a lay-up from the left side of the bucket for the winning shot. When that missed and fell on the other side of the backboard, Mavunga was there for the put back and score. She sealed the win with 0.2 seconds on the clock.

“It’s one of the greatest feelings ever,” Mavunga said. “One thing I don’t like, I don’t like going into overtime. I like winning in regulation. That was the thing. We were all saying in the huddle that we’re going to win this thing in regulation and we’re not going into overtime.”

Mavunga finished with 23 points while shooting 10-15 from the field and eight rebounds. Gray snapped her 23-game streak scoring in double figures and had a tough shooting night as she only contributed nine points. Bryant and senior Brittany Rountree were there to pick up the slack offensively as the Bryant closed out with 13 points while the senior added 10 and six rebounds.

In typical Carolina fashion, the Tar Heels said one of their first farewells to playing seniors Rountree, Latifah Coleman and Danielle Butts with a high intensity fight to the finish.

Up ahead, a road rivalry rematch against Duke on Sunday at 3 p.m. Both teams are vying to finish the regular season with the fifth spot in ACC standings.


Hatchell Recognized For Courage, Fighting Spirit

UNC women ‘s basketball head coach Sylvia Hatchell has been named the winner of the ninth annual Bob Bradley Spirit and Courage Award.

Announced earlier this week by the Atlantic Coast Sports Media Association, Coach Hatchell will receive the award during the ACC Tournament in Greensboro next week.

Just weeks after being inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in October of 2013, Hatchell was diagnosed with leukemia and was sidelined for the entire 2013-14 season as her team, coached by longtime assistant Andrew Calder, made a run to the NCAA Tournament Elite Eight.

After undergoing a series of chemotherapy treatments at UNC Lineberger, she’s returned to the bench and guided her beloved Tar Heels to a 21-6 record and 8-5 mark in the ACC so far this season.

“I’m honored and humbled by this award, and it’s even more special, because I knew Bob Bradley. It’s tough. It’s hard. But you can beat it. Every day is a blessing. Now, I try to support others who have leukemia, because I know how important it is to have that support,” Coach Hatchell says.

UNC Athletic Director Bubba Cunningham says, “The resiliency that Coach Hatchell displayed in her fight against leukemia was truly inspiring. I can’t think of a more deserving person for this award. She continues to be a role model for others that are currently battling the disease.”

Coach Hatchell is in her 29th season at UNC and 40th overall.

Carolina Crushes Demon Deacons 83-45

North Carolina might have grabbed its easiest win this season with an 83-45 victory over Wake Forest Thursday night in Carmichael Arena. Carolina is boosted to a 21-6 record and an 8-5 conference mark. The Demon Deacons have dropped to 10-18 overall with only one conference win.

It is pretty much impossible for a basketball team to win games when they collect almost as many turnovers as points. With a whopping 20.5 give-aways a game, Wake Forest leads the ACC in turnovers. Thursday night only boosted that average even more.

Wake Forest head coach Jen Hoover called turnovers an “Achilles Heel” for her young team, and UNC’s athleticism and trap defense only made it harder for the Demon Deacons to protect the ball.

“Unfortunately, with turnovers, they come in bunches,” Hoover said. “And once they start coming it’s hard to stop them. You saw me try to call a couple quick timeouts to try and slow things down a bit but we’ve got to continuously talk about why we’re making those turnovers and decision making. With a team like (North Carolina) the holes close up a lot faster because they are so athletic so we really talk about ball fakes and being decisive with our passes.”

By the time Wake Forest had 23 points at the end of the first half; they had already forfeited the ball 17 times and given UNC a solid 20-point lead. The Demon Deacons gave up the ball a total of 34 times that night, which led to 40 extra points for the Tar Heels.

But UNC knew how to make some noise with their own offense as well. In a balanced effort by the Tar Heels, five players scored in double digits while sophomore Stephanie Mavunga and senior Brittany Rountree added nine. The night’s leading scorer, Allisha Gray, had 16 points while playing only 15 minutes with a case of the flu. But it was safe to say Gray was not knocked off of her game.

“When she’s healthy and plays hard she can do anything she wants to do,” Coach Hatchell said with an assuring laugh.

For the Demon Deacons, their scoring came from the outside with guards Millesa Calicott and Amber Campbell who had 16 and 14, respectively. As for Wake Forest standout Dearica Hamby, the night was a frustrating one. Hamby, who Coach Hatchell referred to as a “certain first-round draft pick”, only put up seven points and 10 rebounds. This marked her first game of not scoring in double-digits since January of 2013.

Carolina’s junior guard N’Dea Bryant had the recipe for success in stifling Hamby’s game.

“I just tried to stay in front of her and just not let her body me up,” Bryant said. “Just move my feet a lot because she’s definitely bigger than me so I definitely just let her not get the ball which makes it easier for me because if she gets the ball then its tougher for me to stop her.”

Up next for UNC is a quick break from the icy air of Chapel Hill to sunny Florida to face Miami on Sunday afternoon at 3:00 p.m.


Gray Leads Victory Over FSU in Late Scoring Spree

In what many would call an upset victory, No. 17 North Carolina women’s basketball knocked down No. 7 Florida State Thursday night in Carmichael Arena, 71-63.

The Tar Heels have now clinched their twentieth win this season with only five losses. They are now 7-4 in the ACC while the Seminoles have dropped to 9-2 in the conference and 22-3 overall.

In a game of six ties and lead changes, a high-intensity battle broke out between the Seminoles and the Tar Heels. Neither team could manage a large lead for more than a few seconds, and the fast and up-tempo possessions proved both teams were fighting for the crown of the conference.

For North Carolina, junior Hillary Summers found herself in a rhythm and ended up with a career-high nine points and seven rebounds. Senior Brittany Rountree added 10 alongside sophomore Stephanie Mavunga, who finished with 11 points but was stifled under the basket by the likes of FSU’s big men.

Sophomore Ivey Slaughter posted a game-high 15 points and eight rebounds while only playing 18 minutes. Reigning ACC and ESPNW Player of the Week Adut Bulgak was held to an unusually low 9 points before fouling out with less than a minute remaining. Bulgak had 13 rebounds.

Florida State went on a 17-6 run to close the half with a seven-point lead at 34-27. But after the break, the game was all Allisha Gray. She scored 18 of her 22 points and her steal and acrobatic bucket with 53 seconds left sealed the win for Carolina. Her scoring and 14 rebounds set the tempo for UNC and shut out FSU’s chance of a late comeback.

“I think (the game was great), I have to credit Carolina,” FSU head coach Sue Semrau said. “They had a lot of fire; they had a lot of competitive spirit in them. Allisha Gray had a great game, but I like it for us. Although we can get a little complacent and tonight we had a little bit of confusion and it’s just not like us but again, credit to Carolina for taking advantage of it.”

In every game this season, Florida State has out-rebounded their opponent. And although they won again on the glass, UNC’s second half rally included grabbing eight more boards than FSU in the final 12 minutes of the game.

Next up for UNC is a road trip to Louisville Sunday.


UNC Cruises Past VA Tech 74-52

The North Carolina women’s basketball team desperately needed a win Sunday afternoon. Not just because they were coming off a very disappointing loss to Syracuse earlier in the week, but also because UNC lost an integral part of its school and legacy, legendary men’s basketball head coach Dean Smith.

Coach Smith’s passing affected the entire University and reached into the women’s basketball program, as head coach Sylvia Hatchell was closely mentored by Smith.

“When I took the job at North Carolina, I had Dean Smith’s old office. They had moved to the Smith Center and I moved into Dean Smith’s old office. And I was nine years old when he became the head coach at UNC. Everything I did as a coach – even when I was at Francis Marion – was like, ‘OK if the North Carolina men’s team is doing that, then I’m going to try to do that.’ But he’s the reason why I wanted to go coach at North Carolina.”

It is now safe to say the Hall of Fame women’s coach is another thing UNC has to thank Dean Smith for. And Hatchell repaid him in Blacksburg, Virginia with a blowout 74-52 victory over Virginia Tech to place the Tar Heels at 19-5 and 6-4 in the ACC. The Hokies remain at the bottom of the conference with a 1-10 record and now sit at 10-14 overall.

Carolina was led in scoring by Brittany Rountree with 15 points, but was assisted on the scoreboard by a balanced effort from her teammates. Allisha Gray scored 13, freshman Jamie Cherry, in her first career start, added 11, and both Stephanie Mavunga and Latifah Coleman finished with 10 points.

UNC biggest lead came in the second half when the Tar Heels were up by 22, after a 20-4 run quickly solidified a blowout game. Carolina also had a much-improved shooting day. Rountree’s four 3-pointers made way for UNC to finish 10-25 behind the arc.
For the Hokies, guard Samantha Hill scored 11 points and forward Taijah Campbell also added 10 points and 10 rebounds.

Carolina returns to Chapel Hill to host Florida State Thursday at 7 p.m. The Seminoles have only lost one conference game and are 22-2 this year.


No. 15 UNC Travels to No. 25 Syracuse Thursday

The ACC has developed into a powerhouse for basketball this season, and UNC women’s basketball is looking to beat their fifth ranked opponent with a hopeful win over No. 25 Syracuse Thursday at 7 p.m. in the Carrier Dome.

The Tar Heels are ranked No. 15 with an 18-4 record largely due to the ACC’s Player of the Week sophomore forward Stephanie Mavunga. This is Mavunga’s third conference top player honor this season, and she is currently averaging 17.4 points and 10 rebounds over her last 10 games. In last game’s win over Boston College, she scored 25 points and grabbed her 500th career rebound.

For the Orange, Thursday’s game makes the third match in a row against a top-25 ranked team, a schedule they haven’t seen since 2005. Syracuse also has a front court threat of its own in sophomore center Briana Day. A native of Raleigh, Day leads the ACC in blocks with 3 per game and ranks second in rebounds with 11.

Syracuse and Carolina will be meeting for the fifth time. The Tar Heels own a 3-1 advantage in the all-time series, but the Orange took the last meeting last season in Chapel Hill, N.C. with a 78-73 victory. UNC was then ranked No. 6 in the country, which marked the highest ranked opponent Syracuse had ever beaten on the road.

The game will broadcast on ESPN3.

UNC Beats Boston College, 72-60

No. 16 UNC women’s basketball pulled out a 72-60 victory over Boston College on Super Bowl Sunday in Carmichael Arena. Behind a career-high game from junior N’Dea Bryant, North Carolina is now ranked 5-3 in the ACC and 18-4 overall. The BC Eagles fall to 9-12 and 1-7 in the conference.

Bryant finished with 13 points, seven rebounds as well as two steals and a blocked shot. Bryant’s minutes have been increasing steadily over the past few games, and head coach Sylvia Hatchell has been looking to her for a consistent mid-range jumper when needed.

“The position she plays, is probably the most important position on the floor,” Coach Hatchell said. “Because if you look up in the rafters, I think half of those jerseys that are honored or retired are kids that have played that position. That’s a major position for how we play – it’s a point-post type of position.”

Bryant had a lot of help that afternoon, however, as Stephanie Mavunga put up 25 points and 14 rebounds and Allisha Gray added 15 points and 15 rebounds. Gray made up for a dismal 2-14 shooting accuracy with 11 made freethrows.

Although Boston College sits at the bottom of the conference, this was no easy victory for the Tar Heels. The Eagles had an eight-point lead over Carolina with 12:37 left in the second half, and they showed no sign of slowing down.

“I thought we were going to get that one there for a while,” BC Head Coach Erik Johnson said. “North Carolina is good and we knew that coming in. But we also know that we can play. We were up at the 12-minute mark and I don’t think we scored in the last seven minutes or so. We had some good looks, we also had some lapses.”

In its the scoring slump, Boston College threw up threes in desperation to catch back up to the Tar Heels, who went on a 13-0 run in the final six minutes. BC missed its last 12 field goals.

But when Boston College was on, they were hot. Sophomores Kelly Hughes and Emilee Daley, as well as junior Nicole Boudreau closed the half with a BC lead with two three-pointers each. Hughes finished the game with 14 points and 11 rebounds, Daley and Boudreau added 13 apiece.

“Every game from here on out is key for us,” Hughes said. “It’s the ACC and we’re going to get every team’s best game every time we step on the floor. We just beat Duke in the top-15 so people have to respect us.”

Carolina suffered from a slump of its own. The Tar Heels did not score a three-pointer until the 19-minute mark of the second half. Brittany Rountree’s only long-range field goal gave UNC a three point lead after trailing 36-34 at halftime. Boston College shot 8-37 from behind the arc.

Carolina is headed up north for two road games against Syracuse and Virginia Tech on Thursday and Sunday. The Orange are tied with UNC in the conference at a 5-3 record and Virginia Tech trails slightly at 4-4.