Current Date: Tue, 11 Mar 2014 16:16:23 -0400
North Carolina women’s basketball coach Sylvia Hatchell said the No. 11 Tar Heels were out-hustled by N.C. State in 30 of Thursday night’s 40 minutes.
But UNC erased a halftime deficit and hustled in the deciding final 10 minutes, winning 70-66.
Sophomore guard Brittany Rountree scored 17 points and willed UNC (16-1, 4-0) to a win with six game-sealing free throws, all of which she hit in the last minute. She also contributed four steals.
The Tar Heels have now won all four of their ACC games by a total of 17 points — the last three wins by a margin of four points or fewer.
“They’re about to kill me at halftime,” Hatchell said. “I’ve given more unbelievable halftime speeches this year than I’ve ever given, so I think they’re behind at halftime just so that I’ll have to do that.
“I had the measuring tape out at halftime to ask them about measuring the size of their hearts, and I had a lion in the locker room that was growling, all kinds of stuff.”
Despite receiving the Wolfpack’s best effort, UNC was able to get the ball to its most consistent free throw shooter, Rountree, four times in the last minute in situations when N.C. State needed to commit an intentional foul.
“We would’ve preferred someone else on the free throw line,” N.C. State coach Kellie Harper said. “But obviously they did a very good job getting her the basketball.”
N.C. State guard Myisha Goodwin-Coleman scored N.C. State’s first points, energizing Reynolds Coliseum with a three. The Wolfpack followed that formula to a 31-28 halftime lead.
UNC came out flat in the second half, letting N.C. State build its largest lead at 40-30 before Rountree halted the rally with a 3-pointer.
Guard Marissa Kastanek led the Wolfpack with 20 points and four 3-pointers. N.C. State finished 9-for-19 from behind the arc.
“She plays even better when she plays us,” Hatchell said. “I’m not too sure if she likes blue or doesn’t like blue, but she can flat-out shoot, and she’s smart too.”
But a critical mistake in the game’s final minute swayed momentum toward the Tar Heels.
With 49 seconds to go and UNC leading by three, N.C. State committed a five-second violation and turned over the ball to the Tar Heels.
Harper said she blamed herself for failing to get an official to recognize her timeout call in time.
That miscue was the last of many caused by UNC’s stifling defense, which forced the Wolfpack into 23 turnovers — 14 of which were the result of UNC steals.
“I think this is one of the toughest teams I’ve been on, so everybody’s going to fight to the end,” Ruffin-Pratt said. “The last couple games we’ve only been winning by a couple points, but we’ve got so much heart that we’re going to find a way to win.”
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