CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — Entering halftime, No. 5 MSU couldn’t truly complain about where they were, only trailing No. 4 North Carolina by nine.
The Spartans had committed 10 turnovers, shot an abysmal 32.1 percent from
the field and leading scorer freshman guard Aerial Powers was scoreless
after picking up two quick fouls.
Yet, MSU was only down by nine points and in striking distance.
However, any hopes of reaching the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2009 was
shot down quickly by a 21-4 run to start the half by the Tar Heels, giving North Carolina a 62-53 win over MSU in the NCAA Tournament's second round.
Freshman guard Tori Jankoska said the team was aware of its struggles in the first half and needed to come out better and the second half, but simply failed to do so, trailing at one point by 26 points.
“We knew we played a terrible first half and we knew,” Jankoska said. “We came into the second half thinking that we would come in and hit the open shots and make sure we were moving the ball around and not turn the ball over as much and that really didn’t happen.”
The 21-4 run lasted the first 8:33 of the half, with MSU struggling in all aspects of the game.
MSU was 1-of-10 from the field during the stretch and turned the ball over seven times.
Powers even missed back-to-back free throws, something rare for a player who averages 71.4 percent from the charity stripe on the season.
While MSU failed to have success on the offensive end of the court, Powers pointed to the sharp shooting of North Carolina to start the half as the main decider.
Powers said North Carolina’s ability to start the half 6-6 from the field was the reason the game quickly became a blowout.
“They hit their first six shots, they hit them all, and pushed the lead to double digits,” Powers said. “It kind of just hurt us a lot, and we couldn’t cut it down from there.”
NCAA Freshman of the Year Diamond DeShields of North Carolina was a big part of the 21-4 run to start the half, forcing turnovers and turning them into buckets. DeShields had all six of her second half points during the run, and recorded two steals that resulted in buckets at the other end.
Following the game on Tuesday, head coach Suzy Merchant said DeShields ability to play at a high level at both ends of the floor was a game-changer for the Tar Hee
“When she was what she was tonight, you can’t stop her,” Merchant said. “... Her speed, her quickness, her elevation, when she decides to play, she’s one of the best I’ve been against.”
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