CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — Following a narrow 60-58 win over UT Martin in the opening round,
No. 4 seed North Carolina had something to prove, and the Spartans knew
UNC had a mostly dismal performance against the No. 13 seeded Skyhawks, trailing by as much as 18 Sunday night. On Monday, head coach Suzy Merchant said the expected a better performance by the Tar Heels on Tuesday.
National Freshman of the Year Diamond DeShields, who had a
slow start against UT Martin, took it upon herself to make sure North
Carolina did not repeat Sunday's game. The star freshman, who
scored 18 of her 24 points in the first half and grabbed 12 defensive
rebounds, was everywhere — hitting jumpers in transition, attacking the
paint, sinking spot-ups.
In a physical game, the Spartans fell to UNC 62-53 at Carmichael Arena. And it wasn't even that close. "I
think UT Martin poked the beehive there, and we got a swarming, a bunch
of bees coming at us early," head coach Suzy Merchant said
MSU, who hasn't made a Sweet Sixteen since 2009, trailed
by as many as 24 was looked outmatched for the majority of the game. UNC
outscored them in transition 17-4 and forced 24 turnovers. "They're really great athletes, and as soon as our shots went up, they
had people who would leak out and get the rebound and just chuck it up
the court, something we had never seen before and it was really hard to
guard, said senior guard Klarissa Bell."
Junior center Jasmine Hines led MSU with 16 points and
five rebounds. Freshman guard Tori Jankoska was the only other Spartan
to reach double figures with 14 points.
started cold and UNC got off to a quick
11-2 lead, and matters weren't
helped when redshirt freshman guard Aerial Powers, who finished with two
points on 1-of-5 shooting, picked up her second foul with plenty of
time left in
MSU got within six after Jankoska nailed her first triple of the
game, but that's as close as MSU would get for the rest of the night. DeShields nailed a jumper with five minutes left in the half to give UNC a 13-point lead.
The Tar Heels were even more relentless in the second half,
scoring 19 of the first 23 points. The Spartans' level of effort was
often uninspired as UNC beat them in transition possession after
Things got even more dismal for MSU once Hines, a
bright spot in the first half, picked up her fourth foul with 13 minutes
Redshirt freshman guard Branndais Agee sank a 3-pointer with nine minutes remaining to snap an almost 10-minute
scoring drought for MSU and 14-0 UNC run. The deficit was 57-34.
An 8-0 run helped the Spartans trim the score to 18 with 6:32
to play. MSU scored the final 11 points of the half, but it was too
little, too late.
"Obviously, we're a better team than what we showed," Merchant said. "Give credit to North
Carolina, they came and really got into us and pressured us."
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