by Mike Potter
CARMICHAEL ARENA/CHAPEL HILL It’s Redemption Day for UNC women’s basketball.
And while perhaps any one more victory would have put the Sylvia Hatchell’s club into the tournament last season, it was the two losses to Georgia Tech that should have stung the most.
MaChelle Joseph’s team, currently 8-7 and 1-3 after an absolute killer schedule, won 56-54 here and then 54-53 in the ACC Tournament Quarterfinals.
Georgia Tech has won an unlikely five straight in the series.
This time the Tar Heels get some major revenge, rolling to a 79-58 romp.
The Tar Heels aren’t fooling from the start this time. After one Georgia Tech bucket UNC goes on a 22-0 run, making it 22-3 on an N’Dea Bryant layup with 9:38 left in the half.
UNC leads 41-17 at halftime behind 15 points from Megan Buckland on 5-for-5 3-pointers and 10 from Krista Gross. Tyaunna Marshall has eight for Tech.
UNC shoots 53.3 percent for the half to the Jackets’ 24.2. Tech leads the rebound battle 24-16, but commits 17 turnovers to the Tar Heels’ 11.
Tech makes a run in the second half to cut it as close as 44-29 on a Brittany Jackson 3-pointer with 15:56 to go.
The Tar Heels stretch it to 27 twice — the last time on Latifah Coleman’s layup from Tierra Ruffin-Pratt to make it 64-37. The Jackets slice it back to 70-55 on a Jackson 3-pointer with 3:36 to play.
Buckland leads the way with a career-high 19 points including 5-for-5 from outside the arc. Brittany Rountree adds 13 points, while Ruffin-Pratt chips in 11 with eight assists. Gross and Xylina McDaniel add 10 points apiece.
Jackson paces the Yellow Jackets with 20 points while Marshall chips in 15.
UNC shoots 54.0 percent from the floor to the visitors’ 31.9. Tech wins the rebound battle 43-29, but commits 23 turnovers to UNC’s 20.
They said it:
Hatchell: “This is a good win for us because we’ve had some big battles with Georgia Tech. Both were (one-possession) games that we lost to them last year and the year before that we had a seven-point lead with a minute to go and lost. This was a big game for us because they’re always so athletic and physical. We shot the ball well, got five in double figures and played really well defensively. We’re happy to be 5-0 in the league and 17-1.”
Joseph: “I think you can see why Carolina is in the Top 25 and 17-1 on the season. I’m really impressed with how hard they’re playing this year. They have much more chemistry and they’re playing much harder on both ends of the floor than I’ve seen over the last couple of years.”
Buckland: “It was pretty amazing to get a standing ovation (after fouling out with 1:41 to go). It was a team effort. After I made the first one I got into my flow and didn’t miss. … I knew coming back this year from a second ACL tear was going to be tough. But I’m so happy to be playing with a team like this.”
Ruffin-Pratt: “I wanted to beat them as badly as anyone else in the conference. I just wanted to keep this winning streak going. The games were so close last year, but this isn’t the same team we had last year, and we brought it. … We’ve enjoyed all of our wins. All ACC games are going to be a battle. This one meant a lot because we lost to them in the ACC Tournament last year and that ended our season. It was kind of a relief.”
What does it all mean?
That the Tar Heels continue to bang on the door of the Top 10, while Tech continues to take lumps against a killer schedule.
Stars of the game
Play of the game
Buckland’s 3-pointer with 36 seconds left in the first half to make it 41-17.
UNC: Won 10.
GT: Lost 2.
UNC leads 52-17.
UNC vs. Virginia, Thursday, 6:30 p.m.
Georgia Tech at Miami, Thursday, 7:05 p.m.