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  ACC Quarterfinal: #6 North Carolina 73, #3 Maryland 70
Terps Exit ACC in Ice as Heels' Youth is Served
March 7, 2014

 
By Rob Clough, Photos by Orin Day

Diamond DeShield's 22 points helped #6 seed North Carolina upset #3 seed Maryland 73-70.
Photo by Orin Day - Full Gallery Below

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For a while in UNC's (24-8) gritty 73-70 victory over Maryland (24-6), it looked a fast start for the Heels was going to translate into a game where they kept the Terps at arm's length for the duration. Whatever advantage Maryland had as the more rested team coming into this game was negated by the tremendous amount of effort they had to expend just to stay close. Three early Terp turnovers led to Tar Heel layups, but the Terps attacked the basket and took a 10-9 lead. A three by UNC superfrosh Diamond DeShields triggered a 7-0 run, one of many shots she hit that forestalled Maryland's momentum. Every time the Terps would draw within as close as two points, DeShields or fellow frosh Allisha Gray would hit a big shot. The Heels pushed their lead as high as thirteen before settling for an eleven point lead at the half. The difference was that the Heels were 4-12 from three and the Terps were 0-5. Maryland star Alyssa Thomas had 8 points and 8 rebounds, but she also had 6 assists as the Heels went hard after her dribble. Another Heel frosh, Stephanie Mavunga, had 8 points in the half, cleaning up on second chance opportunities.

The second unfolded very much like the first. The Terps went on a 10-2 run behind the power of posts Brionna Jones and Alicia DeVaughn. The run was halted by a three by Gray that triggered a 9-0 run. With 13:44 left in the half, the Heels were up 48-36 and had the Terps on the ropes, and they pushed it up to 52-38 as the foul-plagued Terps were helpless to stop the Heels inside. A three point play by Terp frosh Shatori Walker-Kimbrough broke up the run and started a ten minute dance between the two teams. The score stayed between seven and eleven until there was 3:42 left in the game. The Heels kept attacking the hoop and either got fouled, hit short shots (usually DeShields) or scored on layups. Maryland pounded away with Thomas and DeVaughn, but it was frosh Lexie Brown who hit a short jumper to make it 71-66 with under three minutes to go. UNC's Xylina McDaniel missed a highly contested shot inside, and Brown zipped in to cut it to three. McDaniel missed again and Thomas drove in for the score. The Terps had several chances to take the lead, but Thomas missed a quick jumper, Walker-Kimbrough missed a jumper and Thomas turned the ball over with 17 seconds left. After UNC hit a couple of free throws, Thomas missed a three with six seconds left. Jones got fouled but missed both shots, and wing Danielle Butts came away with the final rebound. UNC may have crumpled on offense down the stretch, but they had the maturity to play smart on defense at the end of the game. They forced Maryland to try and make plays instead of fouling them or overcommitting on defense. This was the ACC finale for Maryland, a charter member of the ACC, and while it would have been fitting for them to play arch-foe Duke one last time, they went out in a classic, hard-fought battle. Meanwhile, the Heels will get another chance to play their arch-rival Duke, a team they beat with relative ease a couple of times.

Top Performers

  1. Diamond DeShields, UNC. 22 points, 3 assists. DeShields is mostly known as a jump shooter and then a penetrator, but it was her work in the post that made her great in this game. Her short turn-arounds in the post and an unreal dropstep through three players were stunning moves.

  2. Allisha Gray, UNC. 17 points, 10 rebounds. A night after a terrible performance against Wake Forest, Gray was a workhorse for the Heels, playing physical defense, hitting jumpers and in general playing with both efficiency and intensity.

  3. Alyssa Thomas, Maryland. 24 points, 11 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals. The Maryland star carried her team throughout much of the game, hitting key shots down the stretch. She put her team in a position to win but was unable to follow through.

Game Analysis

Why North Carolina Won: The smaller Heels battled the Terps inside and never backed down or settled purely for jump shots. The Heels hit their free throws and had a 20-17 edge in second chance points, many of them coming in the last eight minutes of the game as the Terps were furiously trying to come back. The Heels showed toughness, both physical and mental.

Why Maryland Lost: The Terps had any number of opportunities to win the game, but a lack of balance on offense (1-12 from three) and poor foul shooting doomed what was otherwise a solid effort. They were also frequently slower than the Heels to the ball and to certain key boards. The fact that Maryland's posts were in deep foul trouble in the second half also made it difficult to defend the Heels for a long stretch.

The Game Turned When...: Alyssa Thomas made three consecutive poor decisions in the last couple of minutes of the game with her team down just a single point. First, she tore down the floor and settled for a jump shot when she had the option of slowing down and either spinning her way to the hoop or forcing a foul call. Second, the next time she had the ball, she passed the ball to a frosh who missed a three. Finally, she forced her dribble into the paint and lost control of the ball.

X-Factor: Danielle Butts. The Tar Heel wing's stats were modest (4 points, 7 rebounds, 2 steals), but her offensive rebounding, key stickbacks and all-around hustle play helped the Heels hold off the Terps down the stretch.

Key Stat: 16-20 FT vs 13-22 FT. In a game where the hustle stats and field goal percentage would have seemed to indicate a Maryland win, it was UNC's ability to hit key foul shots down the stretch that won them the game. Meanwhile, the normally reliable Alyssa Thomas was just 4-7 from the line, including missing the front end of a one-and-one in the second half.

Areas for Improvement: The Heels panicked a little on offense down the stretch, tossing up tough shots and hesitating instead of attacking. The Terps were too careless with the ball and didn't make enough of their second chance opportunities.

Ramifications: Any chance of Maryland moving up to a #2 seed in the NCAA tournament is gone. There's even a chance they could be squeezed out of a #3 seed, depending on what happens in a variety of conference tournaments. Meanwhile, the Heels are closing in on a #4 seed; there's no question that they will move up in the RPI after beating Maryland.

They Said It: "If you told me that we'd be able to have a shot with Alyssa with the ball with a three...I definitely thought it was going in."--Brenda Frese, on Alyssa Thomas' missed three at the end of the game.

DWHoops Photos by Orin Day

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