The good came mostly from UNC’s underclassmen. At the halfway point, underclassmen were responsible for all of UNC’s 46 points.
At game’s end, the freshmen alone tallied 72 points.
Eleven of those points belonged to freshman Jessica Washington. Another 14 came from Gray, who was awarded ACC Rookie of the Week Monday.
Freshman forward Stephanie Mavunga maintained a perfect field goal percentage and added 20 points of her own before joining DeShields on the bench with eight minutes and ten seconds remaining.
The team’s total field goal percentage was 51.7 percent, but coach Andrew Calder said he was still pleased with how Mavunga and the rest of the team handled the ball.
“I thought we got a lot of open looks that we didn’t make but I thought we had very good ball movement,” Calder said. “Only a couple of times I thought we over-dribbled the ball or didn’t make a quick pass.”
Mavunga was part of that improved ball movement, often popping the ball out of the paint to keep it in motion. She said passing from the post was an area she’s worked on since coming to UNC.
“High school, I was kind of like the black hole,” Mavunga said. “You passed it in, it really wouldn’t come out. I started learning over the years, I had to incorporate my teammates into the game as well.”
In the case of DeShields and Mavunga, that learning encompassed more than basketball technique. In a team without seniors, leaders needed to rise.
DeShields said her recruiting class faced a new challenge in joining the UNC women’s basketball team — finding comfort not just in playing, but in leading on the collegiate level, too.
“As far as leadership goes, we all have to find leadership within ourselves,” DeShields said. “With the caliber of talent that came in this freshman year, I will say that we have been held to a much higher standard than any freshman has in a very long time.”