Freshmen duo Diamon DeShields, Allisha Gray leads UNC women's basketball against NC State
RALEIGH — As the first half buzzer rang throughout Reynolds Arena, the No. 17 North Carolina women’s basketball team looked at the scoreboard and wondered where its 11-point lead went.
Then something happened. A switch flipped inside the heads of UNC’s two leading scorers, and in the second half of UNC’s 89-82 win against the Wolfpack, freshmen Diamond DeShields and Allisha Gray took over.
After combining for 14 points in the first half, the duo scored 42 of UNC’s 50 seconds half points, including 30 of its first 32, providing the driving force behind the UNC victory against the No. 10 ranked team in the country.
DeShields poured in 27 second half points, pushing her game total to a career-high 38. Whenever the game was tight and N.C. State made a big play, DeShields was there to answer.
“In the second half I knew what I needed to do,”she said, “So I did it.”
She made it look as easy as she made it sound, hitting five of her nine 3-point attempts, and shooting a perfect 9-for-9 from the free throw line.
And when it wasn’t DeShields slaying the Wolfpack, it was Gray, who contributed 15 second half points of her own on the strength of hitting all four of her second half 3-pointers.
“She found that little spot over there in front of our bench,” said associate head coach Andrew Calder.
“She’s an outstanding shooter.”
And it wasn’t just Gray’s points that mattered to the Tar Heels. Calder said her second half rebounding was just as important. After having none in the first half, Gray pulled down six of UNC’s 14 second half rebounds.
Not only did the pair score, but it scored efficiently. Gray and DeShields combined to go 13-for-19 in the period and 8-for-11 from three point range.
There may have been only one moment in the second half when the two stars weren’t on the same dominant page. With fewer than five minutes on the clock in the second half, Gray had a fast break opportunity. As she drove hard to the basket, she was fouled by the only N.C. State defender between her and the rim. She tossed up the shot anyway, which connected with the backboard and spun around the rim before dropping in.
DeShields was trailing the play, looking for a potential rebound and a putback. But as she leapt, she momentarily grabbed the net.
The mental error nullified Gray’s basket, and instead sent her to the line for two free throws. The error cost the Tar Heels a chance at a three point play, but looked small when mixed in among all the plays they made throughout the win.
This is the second time in a week that UNC turned to its young stars to lead it against a top-10 team.
DeShields had her previous career-high 30 points and Gray scored 24 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in a win at Duke.
Calder described their second superstar performance in three games very simply.
“Again, a tremendous game by (DeShields) and Gray.”
And behind tremendous play from two freshmen, the Tar Heels have begun to make tremendous look ordinary.