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The Daily Tar Heel

Freshman Jamie Cherry wins game for UNC women's basketball with two free throws

That statistic changed to four out of the past five on Sunday in Coral Gables.

Miami (18-9, 8-6 ACC) had the ball with UNC (22-6, 9-5 ACC) up 64-62 and seven seconds left. The Tar Heel defense forced a cross-court pass that landed in the hands of a Miami player, but her foot was out of bounds — UNC ball.

Miami quickly fouled, but freshman guard Jamie Cherry calmly buried both free throws to seal the game. The Tar Heels ended up winning 66-65, despite a buzzer beater by Miami to end the game.

“(Miami) plays hard. They’re athletic and they throw a lot of different things out there,” Coach Sylvia Hatchell said. “Two years ago we made a shot at the buzzer to win it down here. We always have great games with them.”

UNC knew Miami would be a stiff test — entering the game, the Hurricanes hadn’t lost an ACC home game and were 15-1 overall on their court this season.

It was a battle for both teams. Miami was nursing a one-point lead at halftime and neither team led by more than eight points.

But a jumper by sophomore forward Stephanie Mavunga at the 16:49 mark put the Tar Heels up 39-38 and helped start a 6-0 run. The lead never changed hands after that point.

Mavunga said the team played hard in the first half, but it wasn’t quite “Carolina basketball.”

“At halftime Coach Hatchell said our energy level and our heart was at an eight, not a 10,” Mavunga said. “So that’s when we really shifted our focus and got the lead.”

The turnover on the last possession epitomized UNC’s defensive performance Sunday. The Tar Heels forced 17 turnovers for the game and notched 11 steals.

Helping UNC offensively was a balanced scoring attack. Four starters finished in double digits, with sophomore guard Allisha Gray leading the team with 15 points.

Gray has now scored in double digits in 23 straight games and 27 out of the past 28. She said she never feels pressure to score, but enjoyed seeing the balanced attack against Miami.

“When four starters can get double digits, it means the team was on point,” Gray said.

The matchup also had important ACC tournament implications. Before the game, UNC and Miami were tied for sixth place in the ACC standings. The top four teams receive a double bye in the conference tournament.

So to Mavunga, the win was more than just a road victory.

“Miami is a good team and not to be taken lightly. They’ve beaten some good teams, including Notre Dame,” Mavunga said. “This was a win that we really needed.”

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