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Duke's Elizabeth Williams exceeds Tar Heel expectations again

The North Carolina women's basketball team fell to the Blue Devils 74-67 in overtime

When the North Carolina women’s basketball team visited Cameron Indoor Stadium almost a year ago, then Duke junior center Elizabeth Williams scored a career-high 28 points on the Tar Heels.

This year, the No. 15 Blue Devils traveled to Chapel Hill first and now a senior, Williams once again bested her career high with 33 points – the most any Duke player had ever scored against the Tar Heels.

UNC’s inability to stop Williams below the basket helped Duke to a 46-18 advantage in points in the paint – enough to topple the No. 12 Tar Heels 74-67 in overtime Sunday.

Before the game, UNC Coach Sylvia Hatchell joked with Williams.

“I told her, ‘Elizabeth, what do you want for graduation?’” Hatchell said. “She looked at me and said, ‘I’m not really sure.’ I said, ‘Honey, I’m going to buy you a graduation present.”

“We have a great relationship. She’s a great kid … She always plays really well against us, and she did that tonight.”

Williams is just one of seven players on Duke’s roster that stands 6-foot-3 or taller. Sophomore forward Stephanie Mavunga is the only Tar Heel who can claim to be that tall. 

“They have a huge lineup,” Mavunga said. “We haven’t really gotten a look like that this year at all. That’s kind of difficult to deal with.

“But at the same time, the bigger they are, the slower they are — that’s what Coach Hatchell says. We should have used our speed to our advantage and I don’t think we did that a lot.”

The height difference created all kinds of problems for the Tar Heels, who were outrebounded 61-47 and saw a potential game-winning lay up at the end of regulation swatted to the floor by Williams.

As soon as the Blue Devils noticed that Williams was having her way in the paint, they ran their offense through her repeatedly, and she ended the game with 25 of the team’s 75 shots.

“I actually didn’t know how many points I had,” Williams said. “I was trying to be aggressive. When you come to Duke, you love to play Carolina. For me, it was nice to just get the ball inside and try be a beast in there.”

Mavunga was impressed with Williams’s play, but she was quick to cite her own shortcomings in the game as part of the problem, as well.

“Williams is a tough player,” Mavunga said. “She’s been playing college ball for a long time. So I think that she outsmarts me in some ways sometimes.

“But at the same time, I feel like I could’ve played better defense on her. I take blame because I shouldn’t have conceded her the ball as much.”

Hatchell noted that perhaps when the Tar Heels visit Durham later this season, they’ll double-team Williams and force the Blue Devils to try to beat them with someone else.

sports@dailytarheel.com

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