Tar Heels escape Atlanta with victory against Georgia Tech

Last season, the North Carolina women’s basketball team found itself without guards Megan Buckland and Latifah Coleman when both players tore their anterior cruciate ligaments.

On Sunday afternoon at Georgia Tech, Buckland and Coleman made the North Carolina squad appreciate their presence, as they combined for 25 points off the bench in No. 16 UNC’s 60-58 win.

Buckland went four-for-five from deep in the first half to help UNC to a 34-29 halftime lead.

Clinging to a two-point lead with seven seconds left, the Tar Heels were inches away from their fourth loss. Aaliyah Whiteside had her wide-open 3-point attempt clank off the front of the rim. The rebound went out of bounds to end the threat.

Coleman finished with a career-high 13 points and six steals.

“I think (Coleman’s) just starting to click now,” senior Tierra Ruffin-Pratt said. “At the end of the game we needed her in. She’s a good ball handler. She brings the ball up the court to get the pressure off of me late in the game.”

Coleman made a critical error under Georgia Tech’s basket with 49 seconds left, turning the ball over to Tyaunna Marshall for an easy layup that gave Georgia Tech a 58-57 lead.

“Ever since that Maryland game, coach Hatchell’s been on me about holding my head down,” Coleman said. “I just try to clear my head and keep going and try to think about the next play.”

She used the next play to redeem herself. On the Yellow Jackets’ next possession, Coleman stole the ball out of Georgia Tech guard Sydney Wallace’s hands and darted back and forth, wasting eight critical seconds.

Coleman would hit one of the two ensuing free throws.

The 5-foot-9 guard said she enjoyed playing a fast-paced game against Georgia Tech.

“All the hard work — now I see it paying off and I’m glad,” Coleman said. “I’m actually not really glad that I had the injury, but it’s helped me out a lot mentally and physically with the game.”

UNC needed that help with its starters held in check.

Ruffin-Pratt scored 14 points, but shot just 33.3 percent and committed 12 turnovers.

Ruffin-Pratt went 11 minutes without making a field goal in the second half, but she turned it on late, sinking two jumpers and two free throws in the game’s final three minutes.

UNC has won all seven of its games decided by five points or fewer.

“Mercy me,” Hatchell said. “I don’t know how many of these I can take like this.”

Contact the desk editor at sports@dailytarheel.com.

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