Women's basketball team declaws Pittsburgh Panthers

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At about 6 p.m. Wednesday night, North Carolina students received an email with notice that the men’s basketball team’s game against Duke would be postponed.

But on Thursday night, less than 24 hours after a snowstorm hit the Triangle area and UNC’s campus, splotches of highlighter pink and Carolina blue accented the student section behind the North Carolina women’s basketball team’s bench at Carmichael Arena.

Just three days after UNC upset No. 3 Duke 89-78 at Cameron Indoor Stadium Monday, students and fans trekked through the slush and ice to welcome back the squad.

And after 40 minutes of play, they sang the alma matter along with the Tar Heels, as both groups sported pink for breast cancer awareness in honor of late N.C. State women’s basketball coach Kay Yow, to celebrate UNC’s 86-50 win against Pittsburgh on the team’s annual Play4Kay night.

“Thank you for the crowd. Thank you students. Thank you fans. Thank you pep band,” associate head coach Andrew Calder said. “How can I forget that? Thank you for being here tonight because that was special — that was super special.”

To provide an encore to a 51-percent shooting night in Durham Monday , the Tar Heels employed the team’s season-long motto “Heel Fast,” taking command immediately.

After freshman center Stephanie Mavunga won the opening tip, the basketball landed into the hands of freshman guard Allisha Gray, who dropped it through the net.

Only seven seconds had ticked off the clock and UNC found itself with a 2-0 lead that it would not relinquish for the remaining 33:53.

As a team, the Tar Heels shot 49 percent from the field while connecting on 8-20 shots from deep.

As nine Tar Heels recorded a basket, Calder commended the team’s ability to share the ball while pointing to his favorite two numbers on the night’s stat sheet.

“We had 23 assists with only 13 turnovers, which is really impressive,” he said.

“A lot of good ball movement and a lot of finding the open players.”

Despite getting off to a slow start, freshman Diamond DeShields followed up her career-high 30-point night against the Blue Devils with 19 points, shooting 9-for-18 from the field, and added six rebounds.

For DeShields, the makeup of the last day or so gave her a chance to let that career night set in with a few of her favorite things.

“Relaxing,” she laughed. “I’ve just been enjoying my bed, the PlayStation and Netflix.”

Fellow Georgia native Gray added a game-high 21 points on 7-for-9 from the field and 4-for-5 from 3-point range. After the game, she added a quick “and tomorrow” while smiling when asked if classes were canceled Thursday.

On a night that was almost ruined by the weather, players and fans battled through the elements to honor Yow.

“United We Fight,” read the special shirts Tar Heel players, coach, team managers and even Chancellor Carol Folt wore for the night.

And that they did, even if a little snow got in the way.

sports@dailytarheel.com

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