Hall of Fame head coach Sylvia Hatchell’s first season post-cancer recovery has come to an end. In the final battle of the 2014-2015 campaign, North Carolina women’s basketball finished the season with a heartbreaking 67-65 loss to South Carolina. The Tar Heels have finished this season in the NCAA tournament round of 16 with an impressive 26-9 record.
Greensboro Coliseum was a sea of maroon and Carolina blue on Friday night as fans from both sides of the border gathered to watch the Battle of the Carolinas.
For the majority of the first half, UNC managed to dominate inside, despite South Carolina’s clear height advantage. That’s nothing Carolina big man Stephanie Mavunga hasn’t dealt with before. Until she was triple teamed by the USC front court; she went on a 6-0 run by herself. Mavunga finished the year with 15 double-doubles and the night with 10 points and 13 rebounds.
“I think we’ve played so much more physical teams,” Mavunga said. “I think the refs kind of let us play a lot and we both played hard but I wouldn’t say it’s the most physical (this year). We had some battles with Duke, Louisville, Notre Dame, Miami – a bunch of people that I think are tougher than they are. But I think we did a good job of handling it.”
The chance to advance made for an all-out war. Neither team held a lead for longer than a few seconds, and just when North Carolina thought they could pull away after the final media timeout, the Gamecocks kept fighting.
UNC was up 63-60 at the one-minute mark. A lucky three-pointer from the corner by senior Olivia Gaines tied the game and cost Mavunga her final foul. After sending South Carolina to the free throw line for two, sophomore Jessica Washington tied the game at 65 with a lay-up. That would be UNC’s final bucket.
SEC Player of the Year Tiffany Mitchell drove down the baseline for a wide open lay-up to put USC on top. Coach Hatchell tried to substitute in Jamie Cherry with 3.5 seconds left for her famous last second attempt at a buzzer beater, but for the first – and last time this season – it missed its mark.
“The competition we had in our conference this year, prepared us so well for this game. Because almost every game in our conference is like this,” Coach Hatchell said. “Hopefully the ACC will earn some respect. To me, we didn’t play that much better, we’ve been playing like this all year. We’ve got some doggone good teams in our league.”
On her final night in a North Carolina uniform, Latifah Coleman made her presence known. The senior guard posted 15 points for UNC to reach double figures for the 11th time this season and the 20th time in her career. Right behind her on the scoreboard for North Carolina was Allisha Gray with 12.
Danielle Butts finished her collegiate career with 8 points and Brittany Rountree ended her senior campaign with 3 points.
Gamecocks Mitchell and sophomore Alaina Coates were both the scoring leaders with 18 apiece and junior Tina Roy with 12 on 4-8 three-point shooting.
South Carolina advances to play Florida State Sunday in Greensboro for the chance to claim the regional title.
Exactly three weeks after coming up short in the ACC quarterfinals, North Carolina women’s basketball is taking the trip back to the Greensboro Coliseum, in a much tougher match.
Carolina has risen to the Sweet 16 after two home wins over Liberty and Ohio State. The match against the Buckeyes was no easy feat.
Much like when she sent UNC’s last game of the ACC Tournament into overtime, freshman Jamie Cherry came through in the waning seconds of the match to net a big shot – this time for the 86-84 victory.
“It’s the second time this year she’s made a shot like that,” Head coach Sylvia Hatchell boasted. “She can shoot, the kid can really light it up so in there at the end, it was sort of divine intervention and I just thought, ‘put Jamie in.’”
Friday’s match proves as another flashback moment for the Tar Heels. Last season, Carolina upset opponent and women’s basketball powerhouse, South Carolina in the round of 16.
“(South Carolina Head coach Dawn Staley) has done a fabulous job down there rebuilding that program,” Hatchell said. “We beat them last year so I’m sure they’ll be really fired up for us. They’ve got size, they’ve got shooters, and they’re just a really good team. So we’re going to have to play well but hey, anything can happen – as we know.”
In that game last March, UNC came out on top of the Gamecocks in Stanford, California 65-58. Since then, USC has only lost twice – falling to top-seeded Connecticut and conference foe Kentucky.
With the Battle of the Carolinas meeting in a conveniently close arena, the atmosphere in the Coliseum should be nothing less than electrifying.http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/battle-of-the-carolinas-unc-and-usc-meet-in-sweet-16/
At times, it was a master class of inside-outside offense at its best. Down the stretch, it looked more like a nervy collapse. But above all, for the Tar Heels, it was a win.
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The fourth-seeded North Carolina women’s basketball team used sophomore forward Stephanie Mavunga’s 27 points and freshman Jamie Cherry’s patented last-second ‘Cherry Bomb’ to get past Ohio State, 86-84, Monday night at Carmichael Arena and in turn, advance to the NCAA Tournament’s Sweet Sixteen.
With the victory, the Tar Heels improved to 26-8 overall while the Buckeyes finished their 2014-15 campaign with a 24-11 record.
After surrendering an 18-point halftime lead, Cherry came up big in the clutch, finding the net with .4 ticks left on the clock.
UNC head coach Sylvia Hatchell says she looked to the heavens for some guidance on the final possession.
“She can shoot and light it up. There at the end, it was sort of divine intervention. I just thought, ‘put Jamie in.’ I knew she could make it,” Coach Hatchell says.
Playing at a staggering pace that had Mavunga herself gasping for air on the sidelines, the Tar Heels used their patented up-tempo, ‘track meet’ offense to motor out to a commanding 50-32 halftime lead. The 50-point output tied Carolina’s season-high for a half of basketball.
In an even bigger first-half surprise, the nation’s leading scorer, Ohio State’s Kelsey Mitchell, was held down to a mere four points on 2-11 shooting.
In her place, OSU junior guard Ameryst Alston tallied 30 points to lead all scorers. Mitchell eventually found her game as well, finishing with 25 points.
Carolina continued to dominate out of the halftime locker room, inching closer to the finish line with a steady offense and determined defensive effort.
But the Buckeyes continued to fight, hitting key shots and taking full advantage of Tar Heel miscues to eventually tie the game at 84-all with 5.1 seconds remaining.
And that’s when Cherry checked in, knocking down an aggressive runner to ignite the Carmichael crowd and save the day. The buzzer beater sent the UNC players into a frenzy. Coach Hatchell beamed, clenched fists held high in the air.
“Taking the big shot, it’s a big shot and everybody dreams of hitting the shot,” Cherry says. “I just wanted us to move on to the Sweet 16, especially for our seniors. … I didn’t want it to end here for them.”
Survive and advance they say. Well, survive, Carolina did.
Mavunga credited her little brother for inspiring her standout performance. The secret? A simple slogan.
“I’m a matchup they don’t want to see. He told me that’s what he said all day before his high school game last week. He went off in that game. I’m like, man, spitting some knowledge. I’m a matchup they don’t want to see,” Mavunga says.
The Tar Heels won’t need to travel far for the next round – just down the road to the Greensboro Coliseum. But the opponent may in fact be a ‘matchup they don’t want to see.’
UNC will take on revenge-minded and top-seeded South Carolina Friday in a rematch of last year’s Sweet Sixteen encounter in which the Tar Heels toppled the Gamecocks on their way to the Elite Eight.
The Tar Heels were able to hold Liberty off in the second half despite the Flames attempt to come back from a 14-point deficit. With a final score of 71-65, North Carolina lives to play another game in the NCAA Tournament.
“I knew it was going to be a tough game because Liberty’s tough and it’s just typical of these first round games that we’ve been seeing in both the men’s and women’s tournaments. So we’re happy for the win and we’re looking forward to playing on Monday night.”
“We fronted the post a lot. That was really a big thing,” Mavunga said. “Also, the on-the-ball defense from the top and the wings… the guards did a really good job mirroring the ball that way they didn’t have a good look so they couldn’t pass it into the post as easily.”
Liberty made a run in the second half and cut Carolina’s 14 point lead to 65-59. Coach Sylvia Hatchell says poor rebounding gave the Flames an opportunity to come back.
“Our rebounding was…. I don’t know what words you could use to describe it… but it was pretty bad. So we have to do a lot better job with that,” Coach Sylvia Hatchell said.
Senior Latifah Coleman scored 15 points—the most she has scored in 2015. Coleman says having Coach Hatchell back this season is emotional for the team.
“Every time we think about the tournament and last year we get filled with emotion. I mean, having Coach Hatchell back is great it’s just more fuel to the fire and there’s more purpose to what we do and why we do it,” Coleman said.
North Carolina plays Ohio State Monday night at Carmichael Arena in the 2nd round of the tournament.
Selection Sunday provides a lot of attention on men’s college basketball, and had Carolina fans holding their breath to see how the Tar Heels would be seeded. But of course, it’s not only the UNC men’s team that will be trying to make a run in the NCAA tournament. Hall of Fame coach Sylvia Hatchell’s team received an at-large bid and was placed as a No. 4 seed in the Greensboro region after the tournament bracket was announced Monday afternoon.
Carolina will continue its postseason with a match against 13th-seeded Liberty on Saturday at 11 a.m. in Chapel Hill. That’s right. The Tar Heels will play the first two games of the tournament at home in historic Carmichael Arena.
A home-game hosting position is huge for Coach Hatchell’s team, who finished at 24-8 and spent its entire regular season ranked among the top-20 nationally. And she says this is the perfect scenario for the Heels to gain momentum and advance through the Big Dance.
“It was our goal to be one of the top-16 teams, to host the first two rounds, then to go to Greensboro. We can stay at home and we love Greensboro. We’ve played there a lot – then on to Tampa.”
Tampa, Florida is the host of this year’s Final Four, the last three games before an NCAA women’s basketball champion is announced. But before UNC reaches that mark, Carolina may have some challenges even in front of familiar crowds.
“There’s some added pressure with playing at home, too. People expect you to win,” Coach Hatchell said. “But the biggest thing is we’re here for our fans and now we need our fans to fill the place up. What else are you going to do at 11 o’ clock on Saturday morning? You’re too old to watch cartoons – well, I think. What else are you going to do? Come out and cheer us on to victory. “
Within Coach Hatchell’s 950-plus winning career, she and UNC are no strangers to big NCAA tournament games. Her team has made three appearances in the Final Four and won the 1994 national title. Also, Carolina has advanced to at least the regional semifinal game in 14 of its last 19 NCAA Tournament appearances, most recently last season when the Tar Heels reached the Elite Eight as a No. 4 seed.
Their opponent, Liberty, was crowned the Big South Tournament Champions for the 16th time in 19 years. Their longest stay in the NCAA women’s tournament came in 2005 when the Flames advanced to the Sweet 16.
On Saturday morning, it will be two weeks exactly since UNC has played a game after a heart-breaking overtime loss to Louisville in the ACC Tournament semifinals. Coach Hatchell says she has been keeping her players fresh throughout the break with constant scrimmaging and up-tempo practices.
“We took off four days last week after we came back from the ACC Tournament and they went home and had Wednesday through Saturday off. But we practiced last night and today and it gives them a good break. They come back more fresh and excited after breaking up the season. It’s like that regular season, then the ACC’s are over and now it’s the NCAA Tournament. It’s a six game season and every game is so big and important.”
The winner of the Saturday showdown will advance to face the winner of the first-round game between No. 5 seed Ohio State and No. 12 seed James Madison Monday.
Click here to view the entire NCAA Women’s Tournament bracket.http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/unc-womens-basketball-to-host-opening-rounds-of-ncaa/
No. 15 North Carolina was knocked out of the ACC Women’s Tournament Saturday night by No. 10 Louisville in a 77-75 overtime loss. The Tar Heels had made it to the quarterfinals and looked to knock out at least one of the top-seeded teams from reaching the semifinals.
UNC freshman Jamie Cherry threw up a 40-foot nail-biter with less than two seconds left on clock to tie the game at 66 and send the game into overtime.
In Louisville’s first ever ACC Tournament game, the Cardinals quickly trimmed a 10-point lead UNC held over them with fewer than 10 minutes to play.
With 40 points scored in the paint compared to UNC’s 28, U of L knew just where to attack.
“We were letting Carolina do what they wanted to do, and we just talked about getting back to the basics,” Louisville Head Coach Jeff Walz said. “We tried to make sure we played scouting report defense and on the offensive end, we actually finally started to execute. We pushed the ball in transition and got some layups and also ran through some things.”
Louisville senior Sara Hammond led the Cardinals with 20 points as she scored eight times on nine shots at the free throw line – a key statistic for her team at the end of the game.
UNC’s Jessica Washington scored a team high 16 points and netted three 3-pointers. Junior N’Dea Bryant also played big for Carolina as she scored 13 points and snatched three steals.
Allisha Gray was evidently off beat on the court. She only scored seven points and grabbed five rebounds in 30 minutes on the floor.
Her time was cut short when she committed her fifth foul with 2 minutes left in regulation. Coach Sylvia Hatchell said losing her at the end of the game was reminiscent to the February 15th matchup between UNC and Louisville.
“The first time, she played really well, and this is probably the worst I’ve seen Allisha play,” Coach Hatchell said. “I kept thinking she was going to get going but she didn’t and they were targeting her a lot.”
Even amid her slump, Gray still made history that night as the 35th player in program history to obtain 1,000 points. With Gray only in her second year at Carolina, that mark shows very promising for the Heels.
And Carolina’s season is not over yet. The NCAA will determine the bracketology of the big dance in the coming weeks as the Tar Heels take on March Madness.
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.
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.http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/wbb-to-open-acc-tournament-on-thursday-at-8-p-m/
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.
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.