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The Daily Tar Heel

Women's basketball team defeats Clemson with record-breaking margin of victory

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UNC freshman guard Brittany Rountree led all players in scoring Thursday with 21 points from seven 3-pointers. Rountree shot 70 percent from long range during her 22 minutes in the game.

GREENSBORO — When North Carolina last played Clemson on Jan. 12, there was an overwhelming sense that the Tar Heels lost a game they should’ve won.

They were playing at home, and the lineup finally returned some if its key pieces from injury. But the group failed to gel, putting up just 47 points against the last-place Tigers.

A month and a half later, in the first round of the ACC tournament, scoring wasn’t an issue for UNC. In fact, North Carolina nearly matched that 47-point output by halftime.

Led by freshman guard Brittany Rountree’s 21 points, fifth-seeded UNC (20-10, 9-7 ACC) handily defeated the 12th-seeded Tigers (6-22, 2-14 ACC) Thursday, 90-51 — the largest margin of victory for UNC in tournament history.

But while coach Sylvia Hatchell will gladly take the win, it wasn’t about getting revenge.

“Clemson is really not that bad of a team because they played a lot of teams close,” Hatchell said. “I think it was more … where we were trying to erase how we played against them. It wasn’t really a revenge factor.”

Coming off back-to-back losses against Maryland and Duke, the Tar Heels were in dire need of a victory to remain in the NCAA tournament picture. And they accomplished the feat by showcasing some of their strongest shooting of the season.

With 10 first-half points from Tierra Ruffin-Pratt and 12 from Rountree, the Tar Heels established a double-digit lead by halftime that only continued to grow.

UNC shot 43.2 percent in the first half. In the second, the mark rose to 54.8.

“This might’ve been one of our best games this season,” Ruffin-Pratt said. “We had a winning mentality. Coming off the Duke game, we played very well in the second half, so we just kept it going into the tournament.

“And we knew we’d have to have a big tournament to show people how good we really are.”

The Tar Heels didn’t give the Tigers much of a chance at another upset. They barely let them control the ball.

While the Tigers actually shot a percentage point higher than UNC in the first half, they could only muster 18 shot attempts. UNC, on the other hand, had 37.

And that difference came at the boards.

“I felt like we rebounded the ball extremely well versus North Carolina the first time,” Clemson coach Itoro Coleman said. “Going into this game, I knew that was going to be important. If we gave up too many second-chance opportunities, then the game could get out of hand. And that’s what happened.”

UNC finished with a 47-28 rebound advantage and scored 21 second-chance points, maximizing its possessions while simultaneously stymieing Clemson’s offense.

Unlike the January matchup with Clemson, UNC had the look of a team very much in sync.

“We were a much better team than them last time, and we got people out there now,” Hatchell said. “We’ve had time to work on things and play them together.”

After defeating the Tigers, the Tar Heels face fourth-seeded Georgia Tech today — another team they lost to earlier in the season.

But if today’s game is any indication, UNC won’t be playing for revenge.

“It’s about respect,” Hatchell said. “Some of our players have been overlooked a little bit and wanted to show that we’re a much better team than what we’ve been given credit for.”

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Contact the Sports Editor at sports@dailytarheel.com.