No. 15 Heels upset No. 8 Terps in Chapel Hill
North Carolina’s tough defense snared its biggest opponent yet.
The 15th-ranked Tar Heels held No. 8 Maryland to two field goals in the first 14½ minutes of the second half and hung on for a 60-57 win Thursday at Carmichael Arena.
“I thought Carolina did a tremendous job just taking us out of everything we wanted to do on the offensive end,” Maryland coach Brenda Frese said. “It was a tough, physical game.”
With both members of the Terrapins’ original starting backcourt out for the year with ACL injuries, freshman Chloe Pavlech was the only guard in Maryland’s starting lineup. So the Tar Heels (14-1, 2-0) sped up the tempo, switched screens, and did everything they could to make the Terrapins guards uncomfortable.
Maryland (10-3, 1-1) entered the game making 48.4 percent of its shots, sixth-best in the country, but UNC — which is seventh nationally in field-goal percentage defense at 31.7 percent — held the Terrapins to 31.9 percent overall, 23.5 percent in the second half.
Still, the Tar Heels went 1 for 7 from the line in the final minute and missed the front end of three 1-and-1s, giving Maryland’s Katie Rutan two chances to tie the game at the end. But Tierra Ruffin-Pratt came flying in to block Rutan’s first 3-point attempt with 1.6 seconds left, and the second attempt hit the front iron at the buzzer.
“It’s always an intense game, a really physical game (against Maryland),” Ruffin-Pratt said. “Both us and Maryland are physical and strong, so it’s just kind of like a battle of who’s the strongest at the end.”
Ruffin-Pratt shot 5 of 17 but had 13 points, six rebounds and five assists. Brittany Rountree also had 13 points, while Waltiea Rolle had 12 points and nine rebounds.
Maryland was led by ACC preseason player of the year Alyssa Thomas and the league’s leading scorer, Tianna Hawkins, who came in averaging 18.8 points and almost matched that total in the first half, when she had 17.
Thomas posted 15 points, 16 rebounds, six assists and four steals while Hawkins finished with 23 points and 13 rebounds. But other Terrapins couldn’t help, shooting a combined 8 for 34 (23.5 percent).
With UNC down six at the break, Rolle set the tone in the second half, blocking Hawkins twice and getting a steal in Maryland’s first three possessions. The Terrapins didn’t make a shot for the first eight minutes after halftime and would make just 2 of their first 21 attempts overall.
Meanwhile, the Tar Heels were moving the ball well, getting four lay-ups off assists and taking the lead for the first time since going up 3-0. A 3-pointer by Latifah Coleman ended a 17-1 run to start the second half that put the Tar Heels up 46-36 with 13:06 to play.
A 3-point play by Xylina McDaniel put UNC by 11 with six minutes remaining, but Maryland made one final push behind Thomas, who scored 11 points down the stretch as the Terrapins cut the deficit to 59-57 with 13 seconds left.
After Danielle Butts and Krista Gross combined to make 1 of 4 free throws, Rutan missed the final two shots to end Maryland’s four-game winning streak in the series and give UNC its first win against a Top 10 team since beating No. 10 Miami in the 2011 ACC Tournament semifinals.
“(Maryland’s) big, talented, athletic, and our kids just battled hard and came back from being down in the first half,” Tar Heels coach Sylvia Hatchell said. “If we could make some foul shots it wouldn’t have even been close. But we’re going to keep working hard. It was a big win for us and I’m proud of the effort that everybody gave.”
No. 15 UNC 60, No. 8 Maryland 57
Percentages: FG .319, FT .529. 3-Point Goals: 2-14, .143 (Pavlech 1-4, Rutan 1-8, Pfirman 0-2). Team Rebounds: 4. Blocked Shots: 1 (DeVaughn). Turnovers: 16 (Thomas 6, DeVaughn 3, Hawkins 2, Pavlech 2, Pfirman, Austin). Steals: 8 (Thomas 4, Rutan 2, Pfirman, DeVaughn). Technical Fouls: None.
Percentages: FG .359, FT .500. 3-Point Goals: 6-14, .429 (Rountree 2-5, Coleman 1-1, Butts 1-1, Buckland 1-2, Ruffin-Pratt 1-4, McDaniel 0-1). Team Rebounds: 5. Blocked Shots: 5 (Rolle 2, McDaniel, Ruffin-Pratt, Gross). Turnovers: 18 (Gross 4, McDaniel 4, Ruffin-Pratt 3, Johnson 2, Rountree 2, Butts, Buckland, Coleman). Steals: 10 (Rountree 3, Rolle 2, McDaniel 2, Butts, Ruffin-Pratt, Coleman). Technical Fouls: None.
A—2,615. Officials—Dee Kantner, Carla Fountain, Billy Smith.