CHAPEL HILL — Carmichael Arena was the scene for the primetime national showdown that saw No. 12 North Carolina lose to No. 4 Tennessee 81-65.
The game was pretty sloppy from the outset with both squads clearly fired up. Turnovers were aplenty for both sides, but it was Carolina who claimed the early 6-4 lead with help from Brittany Rountree and Xylina McDaniel.
The Lady Volunteers then went on a run highlighted by a three-pointer to surge ahead 9-6 with 12:34 left in the opening half.
Stephanie Mavunga added a nice score to end a long scoring drought for the Tar Heels, but Tennessee was starting to really click on offense and held a 17-8 lead.
The threes kept flowing in for the Lady Vols as the visiting team built a 23-9 lead with 8:10 on the clock. This one was getting away from the Tar Heels in a hurry if something didn’t change on the court.
Allisha Gray knocked down both of her foul shots for the Tar Heels to try to spur her team on. There was no doubt Carolina was hustling hard and fighting for loose balls on this night.
Diamond DeShields hit a wide open jumper to ignite the Carmichael crowd and close the gap to seven points with 4:30 remaining in half.
And DeShields did it again! She popped a three to rally the Tar Heels within 25-21.
Tennessee’s Andraya Carter countered with a three of her own, but Carolina responded right back with a three from McDaniel. Both teams were shooting lights out late in the first half of play.
At halftime, Carolina was trailing 40-28. The stats sheet told the tale. Carolina was shooting a woeful 24 percent from the field while Tennessee was shooting at a solid 44 percent. Massengale for Tennessee had totaled a team-leading 12 points and McDaniel led Carolina with seven points of her own.
The second half opened up with an easy score inside for Tennessee and McDaniel missed an easy lay-up on the other end for the Tar Heels.
A three point snipe by the Lady Vols extended the lead out to 45-28. Associate Head Coach Andrew Calder called a time out to regroup his club.
The game was getting out of hand with 17:12 left in the second half. Tennessee had amassed a gigantic 47-28 cushion. Their offensive firepower was proving too much for the young Tar Heels.
Jessica Washington made a nice three-pointer for the Tar Heels, but Tennessee continued to push the ball down the court, beating Carolina to the punch. With 13: 18 left in the game, Carolina trailed 53-35.
A nice run by Allisha Gray earned her a trip to the charity stripe, but she only converted on one of the attempts.
Brittany Rountree nailed a three to close the gap to 14 points with 9:05 left in the contest. The score was at 58-44.
But it really was a case of too little too late as Carolina admirably kept fighting, but never truly threatened the Lady Vols again to fall to 1-1 on the young season.