UNC’s freshmen face early test vs. Lady Vols

Nov. 10, 2013 @ 11:08 PM

After leading No. 12 North Carolina to a 51-point win in the season opener, the top-rated freshman class in the country will make its debut on national television today against No. 4 Tennessee at Carmichael Arena (9 p.m., ESPN2).

The four-player class had an impressive debut in the 87-26 win over Air Force on Friday. Stephanie Mavunga had 16 points and 13 rebounds, Diamond DeShields came back from a left ankle injury to post 16 points and four steals in 18 minutes, Allisha Gray had 13 points, six rebounds and five steals and Jessica Washington had seven points and four assists.

But DeShields said that even before facing Air Force, she was thinking about Tennessee.

“Before the game started, I told the team that we have to make this about us,” DeShields said. “We have to get better tonight, because on Monday America’s basically going to see us and what we have to offer.”

The Tar Heels (1-0) held the Falcons to 14 percent shooting and scored 30 points off of 30 turnovers. But Air Force didn’t have a single player over 5-foot-11. It will be different against Tennessee (1-0), who beat visiting UNC 102-57 last season. The Lady Vols are led by SEC preseason player of the year Meighan Simmons and All-SEC First-Team forward Bashaara Graves.

“It was just a way for us to get through our plays, get through our defense, and make sure that we’re ready,” Mavunga said after

Friday’s win. “You can run it against your teammates and practice players, but it’s not someone who doesn’t know the offense.

“So it’s nice to just go through and run it against a different team and make sure you get all your jitters out, the fouls out, the turnovers, and just learn. And so it was a good experience getting us ready for Monday.”

DeShields was the 2013 Women’s Basketball Coaches Association High School Player of the Year, and she was joined on the McDonald’s All-America team by Mavunga and Washington. Gray was ranked the No. 7 player in her class by ESPN.

“They are high basketball IQ players,” UNC associate coach Andrew Calder said. “So the adjustment for them to college basketball, plus the USA Basketball those players have played, it’s not quite the adjustment of a regular freshman coming into college basketball. But again, they’re talented and they’re working well with the upperclassmen.”

Calder is temporarily leading the team in place of Sylvia Hatchell, who was recently diagnosed with leukemia.