HISTORY IN MAKING
The stage is set.
With North Carolina’s 72-62 win over Florida State Thursday night at Carmichael Arena, UNC coach Sylvia Hatchell will be going for her landmark 900th career victory Sunday against archrival Duke.
“The good Lord only knows why it was set up like it was,” Hatchell said. “If we win it that will be great, and if we don’t we’ll learn from it and move on. But I don’t know if it could be any better than to win it here at home Sunday against Duke.”
Hatchell will get the chance thanks to a strong first half from center Walteia Rolle (18 points, 10 rebounds) and a breakthrough second half from freshman forward Xylina McDaniel, who scored 10 of her 19 points after the Seminoles came back from a 19-point deficit to take the lead with nine minutes left.
Senior Krista Gross added 13 rebounds for the 11th-ranked Tar Heels (20-2, 8-1 ACC), who reached 20 wins in January for the first time in six years.
“I’ve been coaching a long time, and this is a special group,” Hatchell said. “They’ve got really good chemistry, and you don’t always have that. They like each other, they’re friends, they work hard, they’re very unselfish, they like to cut up with each other. I think they’re really enjoying playing together, and that is really, really important.
Rolle personally outscored No. 20 FSU 12-11 midway through the first half and also blocked two shots.
“Rolle just changes everything,” Seminoles coach Sue Semrau said. “Her ability to block shots, her ability to hit the face-up jumper, I thought she really was a difference maker.”
UNC made 14 of its first 19 shots and led 38-19 with four minutes left in the first half. But the Tar Heels couldn’t shut down No. 20 FSU’s offense forever.
The Seminoles (17-4, 7-3) were fifth nationally in points (80.3) and fourth in shooting percentage (48.3) and are the only team in the country with five double-digit scorers.
“I told (my players at halftime), ‘Look, this is a false sense of security,’” Hatchell said. “I’m telling you this team will come storming back because they can flat out score. They have a lot of offensive players. Well, that’s exactly what happened.”
FSU took a 16-3 run and cut the deficit to six four minutes into the second half, and eventually took a 53-52 lead with 9:01 remaining on a corner 3 by Alexa Deluzio.
The Tar Heels regained the lead on the next possession on a midrange jumper by Rolle, and then McDaniel took over. The league’s leading freshman scorer (12.3) showed off a variety of post moves and scored 10 straight points for UNC, which stretched its lead to 66-58 with 2:45 to play.
“Honestly I don’t know what came over me,” McDaniel said. “I think I might have made one good move, and I was like, ‘Oh shoot, you better start doing something now.’”
The Tar Heels then made 6 of 8 free throws in the final 2:15 to clinch the game and set up a potential 900th win for Hatchell against No. 5 Duke (19-1, 9-0).
Only two other women’s college basketball coaches have reached 900 victories — Pat Summit (1,098) and Jody Conradt (900).
“It’s almost become a distraction to be honest with you,” Hatchell said. “It’s not about me. It’s about these kids and what they’ve accomplished. They make me look good because they’re such good kids and they listen and do what they’re supposed to do.”
No. 11 UNC 72, No. 20 Florida State 62
Percentages: FG .383, FT .650. 3-Point Goals: 3-15, .200 (Deluzio 2-8, Rodriguez 1-5, Delgado 0-2). Team Rebounds: 6. Blocked Shots: 6 (Howard 4, Clayton, Davis). Turnovers: 18 (Rodriguez 5, Deluzio 3, Delgado 3, Clayton 2, Toles 2, Howard 2, Davis). Steals: 9 (Delgado 3, Davis 2, Howard 2, Toles, Rodriguez). Technical Fouls: None.
Percentages: FG .475, FT .565. 3-Point Goals: 3-11, .273 (Rountree 3-9, McDaniel 0-1, Butts 0-1). Team Rebounds: 4. Blocked Shots: 3 (Rolle 2, McDaniel). Turnovers: 19 (Ruffin-Pratt 4, McDaniel 4, Rolle 3, Coleman 3, Rountree 2, Butts, Gross). Steals: 9 (Rountree 2, Ruffin-Pratt 2, McDaniel, Butts, Rolle, Gross, Coleman). Technical Fouls: None.
A—2,876. Officials—Denise Brooks, Eric Brewton, Mark Hardcastle.