LOS ANGELES – Freshman Allisha Gray scored a game-high 30 points to lead No. 12/14 North Carolina to a 78-68 victory at UCLA Sunday at Pauley Pavilion.
Gray becomes the first Carolina freshman to score 30 points in a game since Ivory Latta in 2003-04. She also hauled in 10 rebounds for her second-straight double-double after a 15-point, 10-rebound performance Monday against Tennessee.
Classmate Jessica Washington played the best game of her young career by offering up 16 points and five assists. Gray and Washington combined for 46 of the Tar Heels’ 49 bench points.
“I thought the players off the bench did a very good job for us tonight,” said Associate Head CoachAndrew Calder. “Very proud of how they performed with the foul trouble are starters had tonight. Proud of how our team battled tonight.
“I thought we did a much better job today of communicating than we had during the exhibition games and also the Air Force and Tennessee games.”
But that didn’t bother Washington as she scored five quick points to stake Carolina to a 17-8 lead early in the first half.
UCLA rallied to tie the game at 19-all after a free throw from Lauren Holiday at the 5:49 mark
Despite the mounting foul count, a 13-2 run after the free throw from Holiday gave UNC a 32-21 advantage. Gray scored seven points to fuel the run.
Carolina led 34-30 at intermission, but UCLA wasted little time in knotting the game at 36-all early in the second half.
Tonight, however, belonged to Gray. She put Carolina back in front, 39-36, with a three-pointer that ignited a 26-7 run that saw the lead grow to 19, 62-43, with 7:45 to go.
“My main focus is to do whatever I can to help this team,” said Gray. “If coming off the bench is going to help my team than I’m fine with that.”
Carolina had a brief hiccup late in the game by going scoreless for over three minutes, allowing UCLA back in the game briefly with a 12-0 run.
UCLA got to within 66-59, but right on cue, Gray delivered her sixth triple of the night to send momentum back in favor of the Tar Heels.
The Bruins never got closer than seven points as Carolina was 6-for-6 at the free throw line in the final 27 seconds.
Thea Lemberger led UCLA with 19 points, while Atonye Nyingifa had 18 points and 11 rebounds.
North Carolina hosts Coastal Carolina on Thursday at 7 p.m., on GoHeelsTV.