SEATTLE — Senior guard Tiffanie Shives ignited 7-seeded Gonzaga’s offense with a baseline jumper, ending a scoring drought of nearly seven minutes.
And for three subsequent minutes, that offense needed only to be composed of her.
Shives knocked down four treys, two of which gave the Bulldogs an offensive burst in the waning minutes of a frenetic, high-scoring game. And all the necessary momentum to hand 10-seeded North Carolina an 82-76 loss in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament.
“Everybody was kind of playing their role,” Shives said. “So it was finally time for me to knock down some shots.”
Gonzaga entered the game with an 18-game winning streak, undefeated in its conference and with another tournament title under its belt. North Carolina entered with its lowest seeding in team history.
Regardless, UNC (19-12) kept pace with Gonzaga (28-4) until the final minutes of the game, within one point with 3:51 remaining.
The Tar Heels benefitted from their size advantage in the paint, with sophomore Chay Shegog leading all scorers with 19 points. Standing at 6-feet-5, Shegog was often the tallest player on the court.
Sophomore forward Laura Broomfield also contributed 16 points and a game-high 14 rebounds.
“I had the height advantage over them, so I knew I could score on them,” Shegog said. “But I had to really fight for my position.”
After two of Shives’ three-pointers, Shegog delivered the sole answer for the Tar Heels on the other end. The sophomore executed two turnaround jumpers to keep the Tar Heels within one point with 4:11 remaining.
Unfortunately for UNC, Gonzaga had the benefit of a 48 percent field goal percentage on 36-of-75 shooting.
Forward Vivian Frieson delivered a short range jumper to extend Gonzaga’s lead to 74-71. After a wide open three by guard Courtney Vandersloot, who dished out an impressive 15 assists, Frieson added another jumper just 20 seconds later.
And as UNC coach Sylvia Hatchell pointed out, shooting cured a multitude of ills for Gonzaga down the stretch. North Carolina finished with a 48-42 rebounding edge.
“I look at the foul line, I look at rebounds, I look at a lot of things and normally you win games when your numbers are like that,” Hatchell said. “But when a team shoots like that, that really makes the difference.”
With two minutes left and a five-point deficit, UNC managed only one field goal to end the game.
With 1:23 remaining, Gonzaga’s Heather Bowman solidified the team’s lead after receiving a backdoor pass from Vandersloot to extend their lead before Shives iced the game with two free throws.
Though a disappointing loss for the Tar Heels, DeGraffenreid said this game alone would not be a teaching point moving forward.
“I think it’s not even the loss, but I think it’s our whole season,” DeGraffenreid said. “Basically, we have to bounce back, and learn some lessons, and refocus, and work with our coaches to figure where we went wrong.”
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