Miracle finish lifts UNC women into NCAA 2nd round
A spectacular flourish to overcome a late 18-point deficit and Xylina McDaniel’s clutch defensive play to deflect a winning shot in the final seconds pushed UNC past tenacious UT Martin whose “bunch of runts” nearly played giant slayer on Saturday.
The No. 4 Tar Heels advance to the second round of the NCAA Tournament at 7 p.m. Tuesday, again at home, after their heart-stopping 60-58 win in Carmichael Arena Sunday. UNC, which scored 20 points below its season average, will face No. 5 Michigan State, a 91-61 winner over No. 12 Hampton.
The overachieving No. 13 Skyhawks held the Tar Heels to a season-low first half score of 22 points. UNC, outperformed most of the game, dropped behind 50-32 with 10:50 remaining in the game. It was the largest deficit they overcame to win this year.
Down 60-58, UT Martin took possession with 27 seconds left. Senior point guard Jasmine Newsome brought the ball upcourt.
“We told our team they would go for the win,” said UNC associate head coach Andrew Calder, who is handling coaching duties during the cancer-related absence of veteran coach Sylivia Hatchell this season.
The Tar Heels expected a pass to senior point guard Heather Butler, who had hit a trio of 3-pointers earlier to tie the all-time NCAA record of 392 set in 2005 by Kansas State’s Laurie Koehn. So they put McDaniel, a 6-2 sophomore forward, in the path of the 5-6 Newsome.
“Once we saw the big girl in the paint, just sitting there, waiting for me to drive, I trusted my teammate, I trusted my coach,” who called the play to go to reserve junior guard Karisma Tyson, who had just checked in the game, Newsome said.
“We did not go over the drive and kick, but Xylina, who got burned on that in the first half, did a great job to help cover (Newsome) on the drive,” faked at her “and then went back to the shooter and blocked the shot, so she did a great job on that,” Calder said.
McDaniel nicked the ball just enough to send it off course, and with 2 seconds left, junior guard Danielle Butts came up with the rebound to ice the game.
But that wasn’t McDaniel’s most talked about play.
The Tar Heels had just reeled off a 22-3 run to recapture the lead, 54-53, on a long 3-point shot by sophomore reserve guard Megan Buckland from near the UNC bench with 3:27 remaining.
At 2:43, McDaniel took a shot, missed, fell to the floor, somehow got the rebound while flat on her back and tossed in a bucket from that reclining position to make it 56-53.
“To be honest I was not thinking,” McDaniel said of taking the shot. “I was just so wide open I guess. I was just so close to the basket.”
“That was impressive. I was thinking you can’t make the shot standing up right at the basket, and then you made the one sitting on the ground,” Calder said. “That’s kind of the way it was going tonight.”
“I felt like we played way better than we have been all season. We fought,” said a teary-eyed Butler, who finished her career as the 16th all-time leading scorer in the NCAA with 2,865 points. Her game-high 19 points capped a career in which she scored in double digits every game she played.
“To have it in your hands and there it went. It hurts. And it probably will hurt the rest of my life,” Butler said.
“I think everybody just kind of collectively decided that we didn’t want our season to end, especially not like that, not on our home court,” said national freshman of the year Diamond DeShields of UNC.
“I think when the flagrant got called, and I go hit in the throat, it kind of lit a match underneath everybody,” said DeShields, a 6-1 freshman guard.
UT Martin freshman forward Tiara Caldwell was called for a technical when she landed an elbow to DeShields’ throat, knocking her to the floor, which sent up a huge buzz from the crowd. DeShields hit both free throws, and 13 points during the final stretch, for a team-high 15 points.
Calder said the Tar Heels practiced for the Skyhawks’ tough defensive press, but got a triangle-and-two instead. The hybrid zone/man defense seemed to befuddle his players, and slow the tempo of the game. The Skyhawks also were able to double-team DeShields in that formation, holding her to just 2 points in the first half.
“In the triangle and two we had some open players who didn’t knock it down and then they got very hesitant with their shot and didn’t shoot it with rhythm,” Calder said. The Tar Heels missed numerous shots inside, and rushed shots near the basket.
“If the game was an athletic, physical game, we were going to get killed” because of UNC’s dominant size against what he affectionately termed his “bunch of runts,” UT Martin coach Kevin McMillan said of his defensive change.
“We didn’t get to the foul line in the second half and their pressure turned up. Our two little guards were driving and ended up on their back and didn’t end up on the foul line,” McMillan said. “That’s what I thought the difference was.”
UT Martin outrebounded the Tar Heels 17-15 in the first half, and ended it on a dominating18-5 run. They shot nearly 46 percent from the floor and hit 6 of 13 3-pointers. UNC shot just 30.8 percent from the floor and was 1-10 in 3-pointers.
But UNC turned that around in the second half, particularly on offensive rebounds to get second shots, and ending up with a 41-30 overall rebounding advantage. The Skyhawks were just 1-9 in 3-pointers the second half. UT Martin shot 38.3 percent for the game; UNC was 34.5 percent.
NOTES — Stephanie Mavunga, UNC’s 6-3 freshman forward, blocked three shots to set a new school freshman record. She now has 86, breaking Dawn Royster’s freshman record of 84 set in 1983-84.
|NORTH CAROLINA 60, UT-MARTIN 58|
Percentages: FG .383, FT .714.
3-Point Goals: 7-22, .318 (Butler 3-10, Schubert 2-4, Masengil 1-1, Newsome 1-5, Tyson 0-1, Warfield-Cross 0-1).
Team Rebounds: 3.
Blocked Shots: 1 (A. Jones).
Turnovers: 11 (Schubert 3, Newsome 3, Butler 2, Warfield-Cross, A. Jones).
Steals: 4 (A. Jones 2, Newsome 2).
Technical Fouls: None.
Percentages: FG .345, FT .739.
3-Point Goals: 3-18, .167 (Rountree 1-2, Coleman 1-3, McDaniel 1-3, Mavunga 0-1, Gray 0-1, Washington 0-3, DeShields 0-5).
Team Rebounds: 1.
Blocked Shots: 5 (Mavunga 3, Gray 2).
Turnovers: 11 (Mavunga 3, Coleman 3, DeShields 2, Butts 2).
Steals: 4 (Coleman, Washington, DeShields, Rountree).
Technical Fouls: None.
Officials_William Smith, Joanne Aldrich, Troy Winders.
NORTH CAROLINA POST GAME PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT
Andrew Calder, North Carolina Associate Head Coach:
“Congratulations on the performance that Tennessee-Martin put on the floor. Some talented, young players and they’re very, very well coached. They ran a triangle-and-two on us. We have seen that this year with UCLA and Wake Forest, so we kinda knew what to do; but at times, Diamond [DeShields] and Xylina [McDaniel] just had to make plays. Xylina, when we put her on 34 [Ashia Jones], I thought that changed the game and gave us an opportunity to come back. I think she was dominating us a little bit. I thought that was big, and I thought the intensity in the second half with our press and just the will, the want to play for each other carried us through.”
On UT-Martin’s final shot of the game
“We told our team that they would go for the win, that we thought they would go for the win. We thought they’d run the flair play for 11 [Heather Butler], because we were prepared to switch. Our back door 11 on the weak side and gave her a chance to play one-on-one. We did not go over the drive-and-kick, but Xylina [McDaniel] who got burned on that in the first half, did a great job to help cover 12 [Jasmine Newsome] on the drive. We knew Newsome likes to drive right. So Danielle played her somewhat that way, she still took it that way. Xylina faked at her and then went back to the shooter and blocked the shot, so that was a great job on her part.”
On keeping the team in the right mindset “We just continue to fight. We just tell them, ‘Fight. Play for each other.’ We continue to battle. I can look at different things. We haven’t played in a couple of weeks, but a lot of people can say they haven’t played in a couple of weeks. Maybe I didn’t handle this stretch in the two weeks the way maybe I should’ve handled it to give us more scrimmaging. We finally got going in the second half, and we’re hoping that carries over to Tuesday night. They continued to fight, and they were still very confident on the bench that we were going to come back.”
On UT-Martin’s defense
“There were a couple of shots that may have been tough, but in the triangle-and-two we had some open players that didn’t knock it down and they got very hesitant with their shot and didn’t shoot it with rhythm. Then I thought we missed some shots inside. I didn’t think they could handle us down inside. I thought we rushed some shots around the basket. I think we only shot 50% in the paint, and we should’ve done better with that. I thought we got a reasonable amount of shots in the paint, which was very good. We were expecting them to press. We practiced so much against the press it’s unbelievable. They came out in this little triangle-and-two after maybe the first or second TV timeout. We knew what to do, but you just have to execute.
Xylina McDaniel, So. F
On why the team started slowly
“We do tend to start off slowly, I really don’t know why we do that. It has been going on all season, and I still haven’t come up with an answer. So I honestly don’t know why.”
On second chance opportunities
“It definitely helped us. Second chance points, that’s what we do. To be honest, Coach [Andrew] Calder got on us about how many offensive rebounds we had. We had like 17 missed shots, and it was unacceptable. He really just told us that that’s what we had to do to change this game around, and that’s what we did.”
On whether she had doubts in her team
“No, not at all. I have so much confidence in this team. I know that nobody can run with us; and so if we just kept pushing it, it was going to be our game. I have all the confidence in the world.”
On the basket she made while on the ground “To be honest, I was not thinking. I was trying to go back and think about why would you even do that, but I don’t know. I was just so wide open, I guess. I was just so close to the basket.I don’t know, it’s just one of those things that happen. I won’t do it again, though.”
Diamond DeShields, Fr. G:
On what changed in the second half
“I think we collectively decided that we didn’t want the season to end, especially not like that. Especially not on our home court. With time running down in the second half, we had like 10 minutes to continue our season, basically. I know I wasn’t ready to stop playing. So when the flagrant got called when I got hit in my throat, it kind of just lit a match under everybody. Then we just collectively decided that we were going to win the game.”
On underestimating UT Martin
“I really think it was completely our fault. As far as preparation goes, we weren’t mentally prepared for that game. UT Martin did everything that they were supposed to do, they did everything they were coached to do, they did everything they were capable of doing. Had we have came out the way we should’ve, I think the game would’ve been a lot different. I think that was completely our fault, and we’ll just have to be more conscientious of our preparation when we come and play Michigan State.”
On making her free throws
“There are certain things that you definitely can control, and I feel like a free throw is one of them. Defense is one of them. A free throw is a free shot, there’s no defense. No foul. I just feel like if you want to get yourself going, you’ve got to be able to do it on the free throw line if that’s where your opportunities are presenting themselves. I took what they gave me tonight. It was hard for me to get the ball offensively in our sets, but I was able to draw fouls and get to the free throw line and I was able to hit the free throws.”
On her faith in her team after she fouled out “I probably shouldn’t have taken that drive to the basket, but they were still quick to pick me up. It wasn’t me hanging my head. I wasn’t down because we still had a ball game to win. It wasn’t about me. It was about the team. They got some huge stops, and I expected that of them. I was very comfortable on the bench basically cheering them on.”