Stephanie Mavunga scored the winning basket with 34 seconds left, and Allisha Gray had a game-saving steal in the final second, and No. 11 North Carolina survived to nip No. 21 Oklahoma State 79-77 in women’s basketball on Wednesday night at Carmichael Arena.
UNC, which took its second straight win over a Top 25 opponent including Sunday’s victory over UCLA, improved to 3-0, while the Cowgirls fell to 2-1 in the teams’ first meeting.
Gray led the Tar Heels with 22 points and five steals, while Mavunga added 18 points and 11 rebounds. Jessica Washington chipped in 11 points, Xylina McDaniel scored 10 with 10 rebounds, and Danielle Butts scored 10 points.
“Gray is our go-to player,” UNC coach Sylvia Hatchell said. “She makes shots.
“There were two very good teams out there. It was a game of runs, and we knew they would keep coming back. It was a great game with a lot of good players.”
Roshunda Johnson led Oklahoma State with 21 points, followed by LaShawn Jones with 16 points and 13 rebounds, Brittany Atkins with 15 points and Brittney Martin with 10.
“I’m proud of our team for battling back after the kind of start we got,” Oklahoma State coach Jim Littell said. “But against a team as athletic as North Carolina you can’t miss put-backs and you can’t leave points at the free-throw line.”
The Cowgirls outshot UNC 44.4 percent to 39.5 while rebounds were even at 45. UNC committed 13 turnovers to the visitors’ 18.
“I just jumped up and got it,” said Gray, who stole an attempted floor-length pass from Rylie Swanson after the Cowgirls called timeout following Brittany Rountree’s miss of the front end of a one-and-one with three seconds left. “I’m more confident this year. Last year, I was in kind of a sidekick role.”
UNC took a 10-0 lead on a Mavunga layup with 17:17 left in the half. Oklahoma State came back to take its only lead of the period at 17-15 on Mandy Coleman’s field goal at 12:47.
But the Tar Heels responded with a 10-1 run, ending in back-to-back 3-pointers from Washington to make it 25-18 at 9:13.
After trailing 40-29 at the break the Cowgirls rallied early in the second, slicing the margin to 53-51 on a Johnson 3-pointer with 12:28 left. But UNC ran off eight straight to get some breathing room back.
Oklahoma State kept coming, running off 11 straight to take a 65-64 lead on Atkins’ 3-pointer with 5:40 left. But the Tar Heels went on a 9-2 run, seeming to get momentum back before OSU rallied to tie at 77 on Johnson’s 3-pointer with 53 seconds left.
“We’ve been doing a lot of rebounding drills in practice this week,” said Mavunga, whose final bucket came off Latifah Coleman’s seventh assist of the night. “We knew we had to crash the boards tonight and be more aggressive than we have been.”
The Tar Heels’ next game is on Sunday at Oregon, the first of five road games before a Dec. 14 meeting with visiting Appalachian State.
Oklahoma State will host Missouri State – coached by former N.C. State mentor Kellie Harper – on Saturday.