CHAPEL HILL — North Carolina’s young team might have prevailed in its ACC women’s basketball opener against senior-laden Maryland except for one big problem.
The Tar Heels just couldn’t shoot.
Alyssa Thomas’ 21 points and 14 rebounds led four players in double figures for the No. 8 Terps, who held on for a 79-70 win against the No. 10 Tar Heels on Sunday at Carmichael Arena.
The result came on a day when Tar Heels coach Sylvia Hatchell, who has been undergoing treatments for leukemia, was feeling good enough to address the crowd at halftime.
Freshman Shatori Walker-Kimbrough added 16 points and Katie Rutan scored 14, including four 3-pointers, for Maryland (13-1). Lexie Brown added 12 on the Terps’ final trip to Chapel Hill before they join the Big Ten next season.
Freshman Stephanie Mavunga led UNC with 15 points, followed by Latifah Coleman with 13 and freshman Diamond DeShields with 12.
UNC shot 14.3 percent from outside the 3-point arc to the Terps’ 35.0, and 55.6 percent from the free-throw line to Maryland’s 87.0.
“Field-goal shooting, again, falls back on me,” Tar Heels interim coach Andrew Calder said. “I thought we took some tough shots; I call those shooting turnovers. They are shots that are just very difficult to go in. But we did get to the line 36 times, which is impressive. That means to me that we were attacking.”
“We’re 20-for-36 at the line, but we'll continue to work on free-throw shooting. We'll continue to work on the open shots we did get.”
The Tar Heels shot 38.1 percent overall to Maryland’s 38.2, and pulled down 47 rebounds to the Terps’ 43.
“It was just a great, great game by two really talented teams,” said Maryland coach Brenda Frese, whose 4-year-old son Tyler has battled leukemia for 31/2 years and has just completed his course of treatment. “There was a lot of athleticism and defense and scoring and rebounding displayed.
“I’m really proud for us to be able to come in here and get a really tough, gritty road win.”
Thomas, who was ACC Player of the Year last season and was preseason player of the year this time, had her 13th straight double-double.
“It was a heck of a win for our last time in Chapel Hill,” Thomas said. “We never got down on ourselves.
“I think (the last ACC season) is a huge deal for us. For our seniors, it’s our last year and we definitely want to go out with a bang.”
UNC sophomore Xylina McDaniel – the only non-freshman to start for the Tar Heels – got her second foul 40 seconds into the game and played only 22 minutes, finishing with six points.
The Tar Heels’ only lead was at 17-16 after a Coleman 3-pointer with 11 minutes, 51 seconds left in the first half. Maryland led 40-31 at halftime and stretched it to 57-39 on a Rutan bucket with 13:36 to go.
UNC cut the lead to 61-55 on Mavunga’s layup with 6:56 to play, but never again got the ball with less than a seven-point deficit.
Center Mavunga said playing in her first conference game brought on a few butterflies.
“I was nervous a little bit before the game, because it's the first ACC game,” she said. “As a freshman this is something new. I’d say it’s good to have it already over with now, because now it’s not like it’s the first time the next time I play an ACC game. Being a competitor it’s tough to take an ‘L,’ but we have to bounce back and we have to keep working.”
Hatchell, who has been attending home games and watching from a media box about 20 feet above the court as she undergoes treatment, addressed the crowd at midcourt.
“I’m here right now for the Carolina fans and the Maryland fans,” she said to wild applause. “Brenda Frese and I have been texting and talking back and forth because Tyler just … finished his treatments. I want to congratulate them on that. We’re not enemies, we’re opponents.”
UNC’s next game is at home on Thursday night at 6 against N.C. State. Maryland will host Wake Forest on Thursday night.