Young Tar Heels can't handle No. 4 Tennessee
North Carolina’s vaunted freshmen class may eventually help lead the Tar Heels into the upper echelon of women’s college basketball. But it wasn’t going to happen in their second game.
In the first big test for a group that includes four players ranked among the top 25 incoming recruits by ESPN, UNC trailed by double-digits the entire second half and lost 81-65 to No. 4 Tennessee Monday night in front of 4,923 at Carmichael Arena.
Tar Heels forward Diamond DeShields, the consensus 2013 high school player of the year, shot 3 of 15 and committed six turnovers before fouling out in 24 minutes.
Her teammates were somewhat more successful against the Lady Vols (2-0), who got a career-high 20 points and seven assists in 40 minutes from junior Ariel Massengale.
Freshman forward Stephanie Mavunga (11 points, 12 rebounds, four blocks), freshman guard Allisha Gray (15 points, 10 rebounds) and sophomore forward Xylina McDaniel (12 points, 10 rebounds) all had double-doubles for UNC. But the Tar Heels couldn’t overcome 30.4 percent shooting – including 5 of 22 from behind the arc – and 23 turnovers compared to nine assists.
“(The Tar Heels) are going to be fine," Tennessee coach Holly Warlick said. "They have to get used to the tempo and the atmosphere. They’re very talented, very athletic, and they’ll figure out. It’s hard with a young team to go against an experienced team."
UNC (1-1) is now 7 of 38 from behind the arc in its first two games – an issue that may be harder to solve with an apparent right knee injury to sharpshooter Megan Buckland, who was hurt midway through the second half and needed crutches as she left the court after the game.
It was the first UNC-Tennessee game in 27 years to be played without Sylvia Hatchell or Pat Summitt, the two winningest coaches in women’s basketball history.
Instead, longtime assistants Andrew Calder and Warlick were leading the teams on Monday. Warlick took over for Summitt last season, while Calder is directing the team as Hatchell undergoes treatment for leukemia.
Hatchell stepped away from on-court coaching last month, was released from UNC Cancer Center on Thursday and spoke with the Tar Heels during their team meeting earlier Monday.
Her team seemed spirited early, but had trouble on the offensive end. UNC was 4 of 22 with seven turnovers after 12 minutes as the Lady Vols took a 23-9 lead.
After making just one field goal during a 10-minute stretch, the Tar Heels went on a 12-2 run and pulled within 25-21 when DeShields finally got on the board with a jumper and a pull-up 3 on consecutive possessions.
Still, that didn’t shake UNC out of its struggles in the halfcourt, which caused Calder to shout “Run the offense” after another 1-on-1 effort resulted in a turnover. The Lady Vols led by 12 at the break.
UNC opened the second half by continuing its field goal drought as McDaniel, the 2013 ACC rookie of the year, missed three lay-ups in the first 1:30. The Tar Heels eventually missed their first eight shots and Tennessee went up by 21 before Gray hit a 3 with 13:36 remaining.
The offensive problems were most evident when Tennesee’s Bashaara Graves went down with a cramp while the ball was still in play. UNC wound up with a 5-on-3 break after a Lady Vols teammate went to check on Graves, but Buckland missed a transition 3 and Tennessee got the rebound.
UNC eventually cut the lead to 11 on a corner 3 by Mavunga with 5:46 remaining – the closest the Tar Heels had been in the second half – and UNC had a chance to get within single digits after Mavunga blocked a shot on the other end.
But Brittany Rountree was out of control in transition and turned the ball over, and Tennessee scored the next seven points to ensure it would stay comfortably ahead.
The Tar Heels came closer than last year’s 102-57 loss at Tennessee last year, but still have a long way to go.
"We took some poor shots tonight. We did not get into our offense as much as we want to," Calder said. "We’re talented and we’re going to be very, very good at the end when it all clicks."
At Carmichael Arena, Chapel Hill
No. 4 TENNESSEE 81, No. 12 NORTH CAROLINA 65
No. 4 TENNESSEE (2-0)
Ariel Massengale 5-12 5-6 20; Isabelle Harrison 4-5 6-6 14; Andraya Carter
3-3 2-2 10; Meighan Simmons 3-9 2-2 8; Bashaara Graves 3-13 2-2 8; Cierra
Burdick 4-13 0-0 8; Jasmine Jones 3-5 0-1 6; Jordan Reynolds 2-4 0-0 5;
Mercedes Russell 0-3 2-9 2. Totals 27-67 19-28 81.
No. 12 NORTH CAROLINA (1-1)
Allisha Gray 4-10 6-9 15; Brittany Rountree 5-8 2-2 13; Xylina McDaniel 4-13
3-4 12; Stephanie Mavunga 4-9 2-7 11; Diamond DeShields 3-15 1-2 8; Latifah
Coleman 1-6 2-4 4; Hillary Fuller 0-0 2-2 2; Megan Buckland 0-2 0-0 0; N'Dea
Bryant 0-3 0-0 0; Erika Johnson 0-0 0-0 0; Hillary Summers 0-0 0-0 0;
Jessica Washington 0-3 0-0 0. Totals 21-69 18-30 65.
Tennessee 40 41 81
North Carolina 28 37 65
3-point goals--Tennessee 8-19 (Ariel Massengale 5-9; Andraya Carter
2-2; Jordan Reynolds 1-2; Bashaara Graves 0-1; Cierra Burdick 0-2; Meighan
Simmons 0-3), North Carolina 5-22 (Xylina McDaniel 1-1; Brittany Rountree
1-3; Diamond DeShields 1-7; Stephanie Mavunga 1-2; Allisha Gray 1-4; Megan
Buckland 0-2; Jessica Washington 0-2; Latifah Coleman 0-1). Fouled out--
Tennessee-Cierra Burdick, North Carolina-Stephanie Mavunga; Diamond
DeShields. Rebounds--Tennessee 49 (Cierra Burdick 9), North Carolina 44
(Stephanie Mavunga 12). Assists--Tennessee 16 (Ariel Massengale 7),
North Carolina 9 (Latifah Coleman 2; Jessica Washington 2; Allisha Gray 2).
Total fouls--Tennessee 24, North Carolina 27. Technical fouls--Tennessee-None, North Carolina-None. A-4923