HEELS EAT UP PACK
N.C. State coach Wes Moore said North Carolina feeds off turnovers like sharks in the water.
The end of the first half featured a feeding frenzy that lifted the 13th-ranked Tar Heels to their fifth straight win over the 20th-ranked Wolfpack.
UNC used nine points off turnovers and six fast-break points during a 24-2 run late in the first half and held on for a 79-70 win Thursday at Carmichael Arena.
Freshman sensation Diamond DeShields — who was playing with a broken left ring finger — finished one rebound shy of her first career double-double, scoring a game-high 21 points and matching a game-high with nine rebounds.
“We just let our defense create our offense,” DeShields said. “We had a ton of energy, we made a ton of great decisions and great passes and it showed.”
Sophomore Xylina McDaniel, UNC’s only non-freshman starter, added 15 points for the Tar Heels (13-3, 1-1 ACC), who shot 50.9 percent. Freshman Allisha Gray recorded nine points, seven rebounds, four assists and three steals in the first top 25 matchup in the series since the 2007 ACC Tournament final.
N.C. State (14-2, 1-1) was attempting to go 15-1 overall for the first time since 1997-98 and 2-0 in the ACC for the first time since 1999-2000.
It was a rough start for DeShields, who had four turnovers in the first four minutes. UNC coach Andrew Calder said his team also focused too much on N.C. State center Markiesha Gatling, who averages 15.9 points a game, and allowed the Wolfpack to get easy outside shots. N.C. State went 4 of 6 from behind the arc to take a 19-9 lead 7:15 into the game.
But DeShields settled down, and the Tar Heels soon made their run. Down 26-21 with 5:53 left in the first half, UNC scored 24 of the final 27 points before the break.
“We just dug too big a hole,” Moore said. “When you’re playing a talented team and you’re on the road, you just can’t afford to have a stretch like we had there in the first half.”
DeShields had eight points in one two-minute stretch, including a pair of 3-point plays, as she used her quickness to fly past defenders and her athleticism to finish drives.
“(She’s) a very, very difficult matchup,” interim head coach Andrew Calder said. “First, basketball intelligence, and then obviously she’s very blessed with basketball skills and she’s worked hard on those skills. … “And what’s impressive is she has a slight injury on her left hand. But she keeps taking it in there. That’s how she got hurt, but she doesn’t shy away. That’s the competitor in her, and that’s you love so much.”
DeShields said it wasn’t her best game, pointing to her seven turnovers and the three 3-pointers made by N.C. State counterpart Myisha Coleman-Goodwin.
But with head coach Sylvia Hatchell — who is recovering from leukemia treatments — looking on from a private area above the court, the Tar Heels avoided an 0-2 start during a tough opening stretch to ACC play.
UNC lost to No. 8 Maryland at Carmichael last Sunday, and will play its third straight ranked opponent Sunday at No. 18 Florida State (1 p.m., Fox Sports Carolinas).
N.C. State, which had already beaten No. 12 LSU and No. 20 Syracuse, got within five points three different times in the final four minutes. But Kody Burke missed an open 3 with 27 seconds left and the Wolfpack down six to end the comeback attempt.
Gatling (18 points) and Burke (16 points) both finished with eight rebounds for the Wolfpack.
“I’m still growing into the rivalry,” said DeShields, a Georgia native. “I think that’s going to come with time, but for my teammates it was a big win for them so it was good to see them fill with a sign of relief on their face and coach too.”
|No. 13 NORTH CAROLINA 79, No. 20 NC STATE 70|
Percentages: FG .394, FT .688.
3-Point Goals: 7-19, .368 (Goodwin-Coleman 3-7, Brown 1-1, Spencer 1-1, Barrett 1-4, Burke 1-5, Mathurin 0-1).
Team Rebounds: 1.
Blocked Shots: 3 (Gatling 2, Burke).
Turnovers: 22 (Gatling 6, Brown 4, Burke 3, Barrett 3, Mathurin, Daniel, Spencer, A. Williams, Goodwin-Coleman).
Steals: 12 (Goodwin-Coleman 3, Brown 3, Barrett 3, Spencer 2, Gatling).
Technical Fouls: Bench.
Percentages: FG .509, FT .700.
3-Point Goals: 2-12, .167 (Washington 1-1, Gray 1-3, McDaniel 0-1, Rountree 0-1, Coleman 0-1, Mavunga 0-1, DeShields 0-4).
Team Rebounds: 2.
Blocked Shots: 6 (Mavunga 2, Summers, DeShields, Gray, Bryant).
Turnovers: 20 (DeShields 7, McDaniel 4, Mavunga 2, Rountree 2, Coleman 2, Washington, Butts, Bryant).
Steals: 11 (Gray 3, Coleman 2, McDaniel 2, DeShields 2, Rountree, Washington).
Technical Fouls: None.
Officials_Dennis DeMayo, Luis Gonzales, Lauren Holtkamp.