Maryland too much for North Carolina in ACC opener
Trailing 76-67 with 30 seconds left, UNC junior guard Danielle Butts took a short jumper, but misfired.
It was another in a dismal string of lost opportunities on a night the No. 10 Tar Heels shot just 38 percent from the floor. Butts was fouled on the play and made two free throws, but had she connected it would have been a two-score game, a chance to pull off a classic, never-say-die upset over a gritty and physical No. 8 Maryland team.
Instead, Butts was left walking aimlessly away from the spot of the errant throw, looking up to the rafters and muttering to herself until teammate Diamond DeShields walked over, patted her cheek and led her back to the foul line.
The muscular, physical and dominating upperclassmen of 13-1 Maryland welcomed UNC’s fabulous freshmen to their inaugural ACC play with a thud. The Terps dumped the 12-3 Tar Heels by a 79-70 final score without being seriously threatened past the midway point of the first period.
The game was highlighted by the Terrapins' stellar forward Alyssa Thomas recording her national best 13th consecutive double-double. The 6-foot-2 senior led all scorers with 21 points, and had 14 rebounds in Maryland’s ACC swan song-season. The Terrapins jump to the Big Ten next season.
Thomas, a two-time ACC Player of the Year, now has 1,941 career points and moved to No. 4 all-time on the Maryland scoring list.
It was “definitely a heck of a way to finish out our last time playing in Chapel Hill. I’m extremely proud of my teammates and how they fought. We never got down on ourselves and played Maryland basketball,” Thomas said. “For our seniors, it’s our last year in general, but just to be the last year in the ACC we definitely want to go out with a bang."
“I think they did a lot of great things out on the court,” UNC associate head coach Andrew Calder said. “Alyssa Thomas is a tremendous player, but they had more than just Alyssa Thomas, too. They had a lot of players I thought played extremely well.”
Also scoring in double digits for Maryland were freshman guard Shatori Walker-Kimbrough (16 points), senior guard Katie Rutan (14 points) and freshman guard Lexie Brown (12 points).
“I’m really proud for us to come in here and get a really tough, gritty road win at Carolina,” said Maryland coach Brenda Frese.
“I thought we did a tremendous job with our vets, with our rookies coming in and playing with confidence. There’s been a lot of talk obviously about Carolina’s freshmen, but we’ve got some really special freshmen as well,” Frese said.
Freshman forward Stephanie Mavunga led all UNC players with 15 points. Junior guard Latifah Coleman had 13, and freshman guard DeShields netted a dozen.
Despite coming out on the short end of the statistic that mattered most, UNC had a lot to be pleased with, Calder said.
“We do like the fact that we won the boards over Maryland. That’s impressive. There’s not a lot of teams that do that,” Calder said.
UNC held a 47-43 edge in rebounds against a team that leads not just the ACC but the nation for the third straight year. The Terps have a +17.2 rebounding margin this season.
“We had 22 second-chance points. They had 13. We also held them below 40 percent shooting, and that’s our goal for the year,” Calder said.
That’s no small achievement given that Maryland is among the top five teams in the country for shooting percentage, coming into the game at 49.6 percent. They shot just 38.2 percent against the Tar Heels.
“I like the fact that we got 40 points in the paint to their 26,” Calder said, conceding, overall, and heading into the thick of ACC play, “I’ve got to get them to take a little better shots.”
That was another huge moral victory for the Tar Heels. With its towering and intimidating front line anchored by Thomas, Maryland is known for its dominant inside game. The Terps this season have outscored opponents in the paint by an average 42.5 to 21.4.
Coming out in the first period, the Tar Heels looked frazzled at times, frustrated or hurried at others, and, repeatedly, just plain out of their game. They threw bricks, missed easy layups and open shots. They committed 9 of their 16 turnovers in the first period.
“As a competitor, I’m upset that we lost,” DeShields said. “But I’m glad we got that out of the way, honestly. I had nerves, which I usually don’t.”
Mavunga, too, admitted she was “nervous a little bit before the game because it’s the first ACC game as a freshman, and it’s something new.
“It’s good to have it already over with because now it’s not like the first time the next time I play an ACC game,” Mavunga said. “I know how competitive it is, and being a competitor it’s tough to take an 'L', but you have to bounce back, you have to keep working.”
Maryland snagged a six-point lead against scoreless UNC in the opening 1:06 and then stretched its lead to seven points at 10-3, 14-7 and 16-9 at 14:18.
At that point, UNC put together its most impressive run of the first period, rattling off eight unanswered points, and appeared to be taking control of the game.
Mavunga scored on an offensive rebound, and Coleman went 1-2 at the free-throw line to cut the lead to four. Coleman next got the ball in transition, scooted all the way down the court and pumped in a bucket at 12:37, then hit a 3-pointer from the top of the key at 11:52 to give the Tar Heels their only lead of the half, 17-16.
The Tar Heels trailed 29-27 with 5:56 remaining in the period, but Maryland began to slowly pull ahead and led 40-31 at the half.
The second period began as the Katie Rutan show. After hitting a 3-pointer in the closing minute of the first period, Rutan drained a trio of 3-pointers and a jumper for 11 points over a three-minute span to lift Maryland to what evolved into an insurmountable 18-point lead, 57-39, with 13:36 to play.
“There were some defensive mistakes there,” Calder said of Rutan being left unguarded to launch her shots.
“The first one out of the corner there were two defensive mistakes there,” Calder said. “The second one she made they set two great screens at the top of the key to get her open. They did a great job to call her number again. They knew what defense we were in and that’s when we actually changed our defense after that.”
The third 3-pointer came in transition.
“We just didn’t do a good job at that point. We got a little frustrated and we just can’t let that happen to us,” he said.
“With the amount of time that was on the clock it was either we were going to let them keep doing that and lose by a huge margin or we had to tighten up,” DeShields said. “There was like over 12 minutes left in the game and we were down by 18, so that’s plenty of time to score 18 points.”
UNC buckled down.
“Brittany (Rountree) did a great job of fueling our offense, and Latifah finding her, so I was excited, and that energized our entire bench and enabled us to go on that run,” DeShields said.
On the run, Rountree tossed in five points and freshman Hillary Summers added four to bring Carolina to within nine, 57-48 at the 11:26 mark. After Maryland scored 4, Rountree, Coleman, Summers and Mavunga combined for seven unanswered points to draw within six at 6:56, 61-55.
But Thomas stepped up for Maryland, scoring eight of the Terps’ last 16 points to seal the deal.
“We knew they were going to make runs, which they did,” Frese said. “It was great that we had a buffer in terms of the lead, and then I thought A.T. (Thomas) imposed her will. She was not going to let us be denied, and she showed it by getting all the glass and making big plays to stop that gap.”
NOTES: UNC coach Sylvia Hatchell, sidelined as she battles leukemia, made a cameo appearance on the court to thunderous applause from the crowd. Wearing her Carolina warmups and wiping away tears, she insisted before making her remarks, “I’ll try my best to get through this.” She made a pitch for Be The Match, a registry for people who match leukemia and lymphoma patients in need of bone marrow and cord blood transplants. “Every four minutes a person is diagnosed with a blood cancer. It could be you. Today it’s me,” Hatchell said. She noted that Maryland coach Brenda Frese’s 5-year-old son Tyler has been battling leukemia.
No. 8 MARYLAND 79, No. 10 NORTH CAROLINA 70
Percentages: FG .382, FT .870. 3-Point Goals: 7-20, .350 (Rutan 4-10, Mincy 1-1, Walker-Kimbrough 1-2, Brown 1-5, Moseley 0-2). Team Rebounds: 4. Blocked Shots: 3 (DeVaughn, Jones, Howard). Turnovers: 15 (Thomas 4, Mincy 3, Brown 2, Walker-Kimbrough 2, Pfirman, Moseley, Howard). Steals: 6 (Mincy, Thomas, Jones, Brown, Walker-Kimbrough, Moseley). Technical Fouls: None.
Percentages: FG .381, FT .556. 3-Point Goals: 2-13, .154 (Coleman 1-1, Rountree 1-4, Washington 0-1, McDaniel 0-1, Gray 0-2, DeShields 0-4). Team Rebounds: 1.Blocked Shots: 5 (Mavunga 3, DeShields 2). Turnovers: 16 (McDaniel 5, Washington 3, Rountree 2, Coleman 2, Summers, Mavunga, Gray, DeShields). Steals: 6 (Mavunga 3, DeShields, Butts, Bryant). Technical Fouls: None.
Officials_Dee Kantner, Joseph Vaszily, Angelica Suffren.