The matchup between three-time ACC player of the year Alyssa Thomas of Maryland and ACC freshman of the year Diamond DeShields of North Carolina Friday night at the Greensboro Coliseum didn’t disappoint.
DeShields just had a little more help.
One day after she hit her head on the court and missed the second half against Wake Forest, freshman Allisha Gray had 17 points and 10 rebounds as sixth-seeded UNC (24-8) held on for a 73-70 win over No. 3 Maryland in an ACC Tournament quarterfinal.
“(Gray and I) were just talking to each other, like, ‘We’re going to get buckets tonight,” DeShields said. “Just try to motivate each other. I know she was down last night, having to sit out.”
The result ended the Terrapins time in the ACC — Maryland is headed to the Big Ten Conference next season — and set up a third Duke-UNC matchup of the season in the semifinals. The women are scheduled to play at 7:30 p.m. (ESPNU) — about 90 minutes before the Duke-UNC men’s game will tip off at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
Thomas had 24 points and 11 rebounds, while DeShields finished with 22 points — including a jumper with 5:27 remaining that turned out to be UNC’s last field goal of the game. But the Tar Heels managed to hang on in a battle of the two most successful teams in the tournament’s history (the Terrapins have the most titles with 10, while UNC is next with nine).
Maryland (24-6) was down 14 midway through the second half but cut the deficit to 71-70 with 1:35 left.
Thomas, who became the school’s all-time leading scorer Friday, had two chances to score the go-ahead basket but was stifled both times by UNC’s defense. Gray tipped the first effort on a transition pull-up with 1:13 left.
After Gray shot an airball on the other end, Thomas went 1-on-1 against sophomore Xylina McDaniel but lost the ball in the paint with 17 seconds to play, and it was recovered by UNC junior Danielle Butts.
Brittany Rountree, an 83.3 percent free throw shooter, made both her shots the line with 16 seconds remaining, and Thomas missed an open 3 from the top of the key with six seconds left that could have tied the game.
“We were very poised at the end and we just made great plays,” associate head coach Andrew Calder said.
DeShields was the only double-digit scorer in Thursday’s second-round comeback win over No. 11 Wake Forest, but Gray and McDaniel (10 points) both hit that mark on Friday.
Gray said that she wasn’t feeling any after-effects from her first-half collision on Thursday, and that she only stayed out as a precautionary measure.
“I knew when she got that extra rest yesterday she was going to be really fresh,” Terrapins coach Brenda Frese said. “I think Allisha is just a tremendous player. She does so many things. She has a really high IQ. Obviously she got a double-double. She’s just a really difficult matchup for us.”
UNC improved to 8-3 against top 20 teams heading into another big game today. The Tar Heels swept the Blue Devils in the regular season for the first time in six years, winning 89-78 in Cameron Indoor Stadium on Feb. 10 and 64-60 Sunday at Carmichael Arena.
“We play at 7:30 and the men play at 9,” Calder said. “How about that?”
|No. 13 NORTH CAROLINA 73, No. 8 MARYLAND 70|
Percentages: FG .406, FT .800.
3-Point Goals: 5-16, .313 (Gray 2-4, DeShields 2-6, Coleman 1-3, Washington 0-1, Rountree 0-1, McDaniel 0-1).
Team Rebounds: 3.
Blocked Shots: 2 (Gray, Butts).
Turnovers: 15 (DeShields 5, Coleman 3, Gray 2, Washington 2, McDaniel, Summers, Mavunga).
Steals: 8 (Butts 2, McDaniel 2, Mavunga, DeShields, Coleman, Rountree).
Technical Fouls: None.
Percentages: FG .444, FT .591.
3-Point Goals: 1-12, .083 (Rutan 1-4, Mincy 0-1, Thomas 0-2, Brown 0-5).
Team Rebounds: 7.
Blocked Shots: 1 (Thomas).
Turnovers: 19 (Thomas 8, DeVaughn 3, Brown 3, Jones 2, Mincy, Moseley, Rutan).
Steals: 7 (Walker-Kimbrough 2, Thomas 2, Jones, Pfirman, Brown).
Technical Fouls: None.
Officials_Eric Brewton, Joe Cunningham, Jules Gallien.