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The Daily Tar Heel

UNC withstands late State rally

Tar Heels turn their attention to UConn

North Carolina State began Friday night’s women’s basketball matchup against North Carolina with an assertive 7-0 run.

Determined to come back, the No. 11 Tar Heels (16-1, 2-1 ACC) put on a show in the first half of their third ACC matchup this season to eventually oust the Wolfpack 83-76.

But in the second half, UNC’s 24-point lead had all but disappeared as N.C. State (9-8, 1-2) turned the tables.

“With about 15 minutes to go, I was looking up at the clock thinking, ‘We just need to chip away, a little at a time,’” N.C. State coach Kellie Harper said. “It never crossed my mind in the second half that our kids were gonna quit. I knew we were gonna be able to make another run.”

N.C. State sank six 3-pointers and 50 points in the final 20 minutes of play to tear away at UNC’s lead and turn the game into a fight.

Four of those treys came from the hot hands of sophomore Marissa Kastank. The guard proved to be an aggressive player right down to her black eye — a battle wound from the Wolfpack’s last game — and went on to earn a game-high 30 points.

“You’ve got to give State a lot of credit,” UNC coach Sylvia Hatchell said. “They didn’t quit, they hung in there, they kept coming back at us and if you shoot the basketball, a lot of great things happen for you. Marissa is a great, great shooter and puts that team on her back and carries them.”

North Carolina withstood the pressure, guided by senior guard Italee Lucas and her 19 points and six assists. Although Lucas shot 6-for-15 from the field, a clutch shot from behind the arc helped seal UNC’s victory against the threatening N.C. State with 3:19 remaining.

From then on, the game was defined by foul shots.

Although Lucas and senior Jessica Breland insisted the game was not one of the most physical of their season, the final minutes of play were spent mostly at the charity stripe.

“The second half was not good,” Hatchell said. “Actually, the whole game was pretty much a foul fest — there were 54 fouls in the whole game. That’s without a doubt the most we’ve had this year and the most our opponents have had this year.”

Breland, who scored 10 points and grabbed nine boards, was also the recipient of a technical, along with N.C. State’s Breezy Williams.

“I was going for the rebound and was just swimming to get around her and she fell, and when I was going back down from it, she grabbed my leg,” Breland said. “I had to grab my leg from her, and she hopped up. After the game, it’s nothing personal.”

The Tar Heels will now turn their efforts to improving their second half focus and defense as UNC faces two-time defending national champions Connecticut on Monday.

“The fact that we had more turnovers than they did, and they had more steals than we did — those are categories that we usually are up on the top end,” Hatchell said. “I’m thankful for the win, but we need to learn from this and get ready for Monday night.”

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