Current Date: Sat, 08 Mar 2014 01:20:04 -0500
At 34-10, the score was still relatively close. Relatively.
But freshman Diamond DeShields was doing everything in her power to make sure that wasn’t the case for much longer.
The North Carolina women’s basketball team had recently released its full-court press early in the 111-50 win against Carson-Newman Wednesday when DeShields stepped in front of a pass near half court and had only one player between her and her third basket of the game.
Two dribbles and DeShields had her opponent on her back. One more and then she was airborne. Her pursuer followed suit, but DeShields, palming the ball in her right hand, double clutched, and for her opponent, it was too late. The Eagles defender collided into her, but DeShields still found a way to finish as the whistle blew.
The 6-foot-1 freshman promptly finished the old-fashioned three-point play with an on-target charity toss for her ninth point of what was to be a 14-point debut in only 15 minutes on the floor.
And if the exhibition properly exhibited DeShields’ true talent, associate head coach Andrew Calder can expect much more of the same from his freshman guard.
“The freshmen were very good today,” Calder said. “They add a lot to the team. I mean, they can play. They can play and that’s a great mix with the players we have coming back.”
DeShields’ deafening debut was just the tip of the iceberg of a UNC freshman class that was ranked No. 1 in the country. Towering over the competition in stature and statistics was the 6-foot-3 center Stephanie Mavunga, who finished the game with a staggering 18 points and 14 rebounds in 19 minutes.
“You look at those stats right there, they’ll be corralling her down around the post too,” Calder said. “It opened up a lot of shots on the outside, a lot of open shots on the outside. And I thought we took advantage of that.”
Calder thought right. The Tar Heels had 13 three-pointers in the win — seven of them coming from freshmen.
Sophomore forward Xylina McDaniel — who posted 16 points of her own — echoed Calder’s opinion of her younger teammates’ preparedness.
“I was so proud of them,” McDaniel said. “You couldn’t tell that any of them had any nerves. They just went out and played and I loved it.”
McDaniel also added that the talented freshman class — which accounted for 57 of the team’s 111 points — has been all but a hindrance for the team.
“It’s a blessing,” she said. “They’re smart and they’re ready to play, they’re ready to learn.”
Mavunga showed that eagerness to learn and improve after the game in her opinion of the team’s performance.
“It was a pretty good game overall,” she said. “There’s a lot of things that we have to work on, but no one will ever be perfect.”
DeShields also relished her first game in Carmichael Arena but took the game with a grain of salt.
“This was a good time for me to get a feel for college basketball but I know this is not the type of college basketball that I’m going to be playing,” she said.
The competition might not have been up to par with what lies in store for the Tar Heels, but the freshmen certainly lived up to their expectations. After all, any player who dubs her double-double college debut as “pretty good” seems to expect even better performances in the time to come.