At that moment, she didn’t hear anything. But she remembered the words spoken by Spartan players on the court an hour before gametime. That it was their court, that they were going to kill the Tar Heels.
Junior guard Danielle Butts had a quick answer for McDaniel.
“They ain’t ready!”
And she was right.
Something about those moments before the game crawled its way inside of the fourth-seeded Tar Heels (26-9), who finished off the night with a 62-53 win to advance to the Sweet Sixteen at Stanford.
“That fired us up. A lot. Struck a match up underneath everybody,” said freshman guard Diamond DeShields who had a team-high 24 points and 12 rebounds. “All words that were said were settled on the court. I would suggest not to make comments about our team before a game. It would be wise not to do that.”
UNC came out angry, opening the game on an 12-2 run as it seemed every play they made was to silence the noise that irked McDaniel and others.
The Tar Heels entered halftime with a 36-27 lead, propelled by an 18-point clinic put on by DeShields.
But Butts knew her team couldn’t let up in the final 20 minutes.
“We knew that at halftime (their coach) was chewing them out, trying to get them going. And most times, when that happens, a team uses that as their energy and drive,” Butts said. “So we knew we had to come out strong ... and the first five minutes were very important.”
To start the second half, the Tar Heels still played as if Michigan State’s (23-10) words lingered in their minds. UNC suffocated the Spartans with a 20-4 run, eventually extending its lead to as much as 26 points with 11:27 left in the game.
Michigan State was rendered helpless. And for McDaniel, it was all too sweet.
“We really had the mentality of embarassment, to be honest,” McDaniel said. “You try to embarrass us like that? No. It’s going to backfire on you.”
After the game, the only noise in the tunnel came from UNC players — McDaniel shouting and nodding her head while Butts screamed “Sweet Sixteen! Going back to Cali’!”
Down the hall, stat sheets were passed out in the media workroom. On them was the number zero under MSU on the line for biggest lead.
The Spartans never led Tuesday.
Danielle Butts was right.
They weren’t ready.