UNC plays 'Sylvia Hatchell basketball' and crushes Air Force
Naismith Hall of Famer Sylvia Hatchell wasn’t on the sidelines because of her recent leukemia diagnosis, but her style of basketball — suffocating defense and up-tempo offense — was very much on display as No. 12 North Carolina opened its season.
The Tar Heels scored 30 points off 30 turnovers and held Air Force to 14 percent shooting in an 87-26 win Friday at Carmichael Arena.
“I would hope I’m coaching the game the way she wants this team to play, the way she put this team together,” said associate head coach Andrew Calder, who has been Hatchell’s assistant for 28 years and is leading the team in her absence. “We talk a lot. We talked today — ‘Any advice, Coach, going into the first game?’ And she gave me some advice on how she wanted the team to play and attack whoever the opponent is. We played Sylvia Hatchell basketball today.”
Hatchell was discharged from UNC Cancer Center on Thursday and addressed her team later that day for the first time since she began treatment almost a month ago.
“Just seeing her was something special, especially for us freshmen,” guard Diamond DeShields said. “We’re new and we’re starting and we don’t have our head coach. Coach Calder’s doing a great job replacing her, but seeing her, seeing her smile was great.
“She came in, she was positive, she said ‘I’m going to get through this.’ She kept positive energy for us and gave us something to feed off. … We know she’s with us in spirit.”
DeShields was the centerpiece of the nation’s No. 1 recruiting class, and the freshmen didn’t disappoint on Friday — the three double-digit scorers were all newcomers.
DeShields and Stephanie Mavunga both had 16 points in their first career starts, while Allisha Gray added 13 points off the bench. Mavunga added 13 rebounds and Gray had five steals in the win, while the fourth freshman in the group, point guard Jessica Washington, posted seven points and four assists.
“It was special. Definitely something that I’ll remember,” DeShields said of her debut. “Playing that first college game, and then with such high expectations, we have to be able to adjust quickly.”
Playing a team without a single player 6-feet or taller on the roster, the Tar Heels dominated from the outset and led 41-9 at the break. Air Force went more than 17 minutes without a field goal at one point and had 19 turnovers at the half.
“I thought we played with enthusiasm; I thought we did a great job sharing the basketball,” Calder said. “Would have liked to have shot a little better from 3 obviously, but they were good shots. We did a lot better job getting the ball inside tonight.”
UNC has 21 assists on 34 field goals — starting guard Latifah Coleman led the way with five — but shot just 2 of 16 from behind the arc.
Outside shooting obviously wasn’t an issue Friday as the Tar Heels won their opener for the 13th straight season. But it could be more of a problem in the Tar Heels next game — No. 4 Tennessee visits on Monday.
NOTES — Hatchell planned on watching the game over the Internet from her home. … Sophomore Xylina McDaniel, the 2013 ACC freshman of the year, picked up her fourth foul one minute into the second half. “You have to learn not to pick up that next one,” Calder said. … UNC junior Erika Johnson had a career-high 12 rebounds. … The players had orange ribbons on their jerseys while the coaches wore orange pins. Orange is the color for leukemia awareness.
|No. 12 NORTH CAROLINA 87, AIR FORCE 26|
Percentages: FG .140, FT .615.
3-Point Goals: 4-21, .190 (Lujan 2-6, Blagowsky 1-3, Medina 1-4, Williams 0-1, Graham 0-1, Cavanaugh 0-2, Thompson 0-4).
Team Rebounds: 4.
Blocked Shots: 0.
Turnovers: 30 (Medina 4, Blagowsky 4, Lujan 4, Graham 4, Jackson 3, Cavanaugh 3, Philpot 2, Fotsch 2, Williams).
Steals: 5 (Blagowsky 2, Cavanaugh 2, Medina).
Technical Fouls: None.
Percentages: FG .472, FT .654.
3-Point Goals: 2-16, .125 (Gray 1-3, Rountree 1-4, Buckland 0-1, McDaniel 0-1, Coleman 0-1, Washington 0-2, DeShields 0-2, Johnson 0-2).
Team Rebounds: 2.
Blocked Shots: 3 (Mavunga 3).
Turnovers: 12 (DeShields 2, Coleman 2, Fuller 2, Mavunga, Gray, Washington, Rountree, Buckland, McDaniel).
Steals: 15 (Gray 5, DeShields 4, Johnson 2, Washington, McDaniel, Coleman, Mavunga).
Technical Fouls: None.
Officials_Lawson Newton, Joanne Aldrich, Geraldine Smith.