Carmichael Arena served as the backdrop for a tale of two teams Thursday night.
The first featured a show of fiery athleticism, while the second displayed a lackadaisical frustration. The only similarity was that both of these teams wore Carolina blue.
The No. 6 North Carolina women’s basketball team suffered a devastating 78-73 loss to Syracuse in the game’s final minutes, after jumping out to an 18-point lead in the first half.
“We’ve been winning games,” said freshman guard Diamond DeShields. “And usually if it’s in the second half we’ve been pulling away. This is the first time we’ve ever had to battle like that.”
Although the game began neck-in-neck, the Tar Heels quickly pulled away, ignited by freshman center Stephanie Mavunga’s aggressive hustle under the basket.
Despite the swarm of Orange hands, Mavunga lobbed shot after shot from the paint, using her physicality to find the seam and draw fouls.
“(Coach) always pushes us around, trying to make us better players under the basket,” Mavunga said. “He’s always like, ‘Shot blocker behind you, what do you do? Shot blocker to the side, what do you do?’”
About midway through the first half, Danielle Butts managed a steal and charged down the length of the court, throwing up a diving shot to give the Tar Heels a 10-point lead.
UNC continued to build on this momentum, ratcheting up its 18-point lead with four minutes left.