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  ACC 2nd Round: #6 UNC 84, #11 Georgia Tech 64
Tar Heels Pull Away for 20 Point Win
March 5, 2015

 
By Rob Clough, Photos by Orin Day

23 points from forward Stephanie Mavunga helped #6 seed North Carolina claw past a persistent #11 seeded Georgia Tech squad, 84-64 in the second round nightcap from Greensboro. UNC advances to face #3 seed Louisville in Friday night's 8:00 PM quarterfinal.
Photos by Orin Day - Full Gallery Below

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GREENSBORO -- UNC held Georgia Tech at arm's length for most of their second round game and finally put them away down the stretch in an 84-64 victory. This game was won in the paint for the Heels, as forward Stephanie Mavunga led the way with 21 points. She was the difference-maker in the first half with 14 points, as the Heels simply pounded the ball inside against a helpless Tech defense. Every time they thought to double-team her, the Heels would hit a tough jump shot. The bigger problem for the Jackets was their eleven turnovers, which led to 14 UNC points. Tech star Kaela Davis scored 9 first half points, but she had to chuck her way to 12 attempts to get there. Only a halfcourt buzzer-beater by Tech guard Antonia Peresson kept the Jackets within shouting distance.

In the second half, Tech pulled within 7 points on seven different occasions, the last of which came with 6:35 left. In the meantime, UNC had to deal with an injury to wing Allisha Gray, though they never lost their composure. Gray entered the game right around this time and rebounded a missed three by GT guard Aaliyah Whiteside that was wide open and smoothly scored in transition. After a miss by Tech forward Roddreka Rogers (who also went out of the game later on with an injury), Gray drained a three to give the Heels a 12 point bulge. The lead didn't dip below 13 points the rest of the way, as the Heels scored the most convincing win of the ACC tournament's second round. They'll look to avenge an earlier loss to Louisville in the quarterfinals.

Top Performers

  1. Stephanie Mavunga, North Carolina : 23 points, 16 rebounds, 8 blocks, 2 assists. Mavunga had a monster game, frustrating Georgia Tech's forwards with her shot-blocking. 14 of her points came in the first half.

  2. Allisha Gray, UNC : 14 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists. Gray was having a quiet game before she went to the locker room with an injury. When she returned, Gray turned a tight game into a blowout with an acrobatic layup and a trey.

  3. Zaire O'Neil, Georgia Tech: 14 points, 10 rebounds, 2 blocks. The tough forward went toe-to-toe with Mavunga and held her own.

Game Analysis

Why UNC Won: The Heels shot 50% and held Tech to just 7-24 from the three point line, negating their primary form of offense. UNC also turned defense into offense with a 21-8 edge in points off turnovers, including 14-0 in the first half.

Why Georgia Tech Lost: They could never quite get over the hump and get the defensive stops they needed when they drew close on so many occasions. It didn't help that they were just 5-11 from the foul line; giving up those paints gave UNC just a bit more of a cushion.

The Game Turned When...: Aaliyah Whiteside of Georgia Tech missed a three, and UNC's Allisha Gray came back with a layup and a trey. That made what would have been a four point game into a 12 point bulge for the Heels, who pulled away down the stretch.

X-Factor: Jessica Washington, UNC. Her ability to score and handle the ball off the bench has made her a key player for the Heels, especially since she's emerged as one of their most reliable shooters.

Key Stat: UNC had 12 blocked shots, which was key because Georgia Tech tried to compensate for their poor shooting by attacking the basket. What they found when they got there was a stout defensive presence in Mavunga, who single-handedly fended off Tech's forays into the lane.

Areas for Improvement: The Heels still don't have much going for them in the post beyond Mavunga, and their overall team rebounding was mediocre (they were -6 for the game and gave up an astounding 25 offensive rebounds). Georgia Tech's lack of a dominant lead guard made it tough for them to get open shots, especially for their perimeter players.

Ramifications: Georgia Tech's quest for an NCAA tournament bid ended with this convincing loss, though I imagine they'll be a strong presence in the WNIT. UNC gets a chance to make their case for hosting an NCAA game if they can beat Louisville tomorrow.

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