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UNC wins big in Hatchell’s ACC Women’s Tournament return
GREENSBORO, N.C. – North Carolina made sure their head coach’s return to the ACC Women’s Tournament resulted in a win.
Led by 23 points and 16 rebounds from All-ACC forward Stephanie Mavunga, the sixth-seeded Tar Heels shook off 11th-seeded Georgia Tech and rolled to an 84-64 second-round win on Thursday night.
The ACC Tournament game was the first in nearly two years for UNC coach Sylvia Hatchell, who missed all of last season while undergoing treatment for leukemia. Hatchell, whose illness is now in full remission, was honored in a pregame ceremony as the recipient of the ACC’s Bob Bradley Spirit and Courage Award, which is presented annually to an ACC student-athlete, coach or administrator in men’s or women’s basketball who has overcome significant hardship to contribute to his or her team.
The Tar Heels (24-7) shot 50 percent from the floor and scored 21 points off 18 Georgia Tech turnovers while advancing to Friday night’s 8 p.m. quarterfinal game against third-seeded Louisville (24-5). The Yellow Jackets slipped to 18-14.
UNC sophomore Allisha Gray, who was helped off the court after taking a fall beneath UNC’s basket early in the second half, returned to score all of her 14 points in the game’s final 12 ½ minutes. Latifah Coleman added 10 points for the Tar Heels.
Kaela Davis and Zaire O’Neal led Georgia Tech with 14 points apiece, and Aaliyah Whiteside scored 13.
Mavunga’s 14 points and seven rebounds in the first 20 minutes led UNC to a 37-27 halftime lead that appeared it would be even larger before Georgia Tech’s Antonia Peresson threw in a 3-point shot from just inside of half-court at the halftime buzzer.
UNC held a 14-0 advantage in points off turnovers in the opening half, as the Yellow Jackets lost possession 11 times to the Tar Heels’ four. The perimeter shooting of guards Coleman, Brittany Rountree and Jessica Washington complemented Mavunga’s inside play, as the trio combined to score 17 points and go 3-for-6 from 3-point range.
The Yellow Jackets crept as close as five points in the early stages of the second half, but a Coleman steal and layup, followed by a Washington 3-pointer, quickly pushed UNC’s lead back to 10 points. The Tar Heels kept Tech at arm’s length from there, never again leading by fewer than seven points before pulling away at the end.
Friday night’s UNC-Louisville quarterfinal game will be the Cardinals’ first-ever ACC Tournament game and a rematch of the Feb. 15 regular-season contest in which Louisville claimed a 75-66 homecourt win.