UNC's DeShields iffy for Elite Eight
North Carolina star Diamond DeShields didn’t practice Monday and will be a game-time decision today when No. 12 UNC plays at No. 6 Stanford in the Elite Eight (9 p.m., ESPN).
DeShields sprained both her right ankle and left knee in the first half of Sunday’s Sweet 16 win over South Carolina. She returned and played the entire second half as the Tar Heels advanced to the regional final for the first time since 2008.
While the Tar Heels (27-9) were preparing for the Cardinal (32-3) Monday, DeShields was in the training room getting treatment. Still, she said the only thing that can stop her from facing Stanford would be if the medical staff didn’t clear her.
“If this is up to me, I’m playing,” DeShields said. “They really are going to have to basically take me down and strap me into a chair to stop me from playing. That’s basically it.”
DeShields scored a team-high 19 points against the Gamecocks and has more points than any freshman in ACC history (635). She was named the espnW National Freshman of the Year and was the only first-year player on the all-ACC first team.
While DeShields is expected to play, her mobility may be an issue. Stanford freshman Lili Thompson face-guarded Penn State all-American Maggie Lucas during Sunday’s regional semifinal and is expected to do the same against DeShields, which would force the UNC freshman to move around more. Lucas didn’t score during the final 29 minutes of Stanford’s 82-57 win and finished with six points on 3 of 14 shooting.
“A lot of teams this season have tried to take me out of the game and haven’t been too successful with it,” DeShields said. “I did see how they did Maggie Lucas, and I did see that effect that it had on her game play. But Maggie and I are two different players and I think that I will be able to make that adjustment.”
DeShields rolled her ankle less than three minutes into the game against South Carolina. She was carried to the locker room but checked back into the game four minutes later, only to re-aggravate an old knee injury later in the half.
“I have to be able to be mentally tough to understand that there are going to be frustrations, and I can’t let them creep too deep into my focus and everything that I’m trying to accomplish,” DeShields said. “At this point in the season, everyone’s playing hurt, and I understand that.”
Junior guard Brittany Rountree, who averages 4.4 points and 1.8 assists, would likely start in place of DeShields if the freshman isn’t cleared.
DeShields missed one game this season with a broken finger — a 103-71 UNC win over High Point on Dec. 21.
“Yes, it is (stressful) because she’s such a tremendous player,” Tar Heels acting head coach Andrew Calder said. “But we’ll be prepared and hopefully she’ll be able to play — and play well.”