CARMICHAEL ARENA/CHAPEL HILL It’s a very important day in ACC women’s basketball, and the biggest game is here.
No. 13 UNC (22-3, 8-2 ACC) is playing No. 20 Miami (21-3, 7-2), with the probably being effectively eliminated from the race for the top seed in the conference tournament.
The Tar Heels’ only loss at home this season has been to defending NCAA champion Connecticut.
Miami beat the Tar Heels 80-69 last season in Coral Gables, but finished last in the league before finishing second in the WNIT. The Hurricanes are coached by former Duke All-American Katie Meier.
And today belongs to the Hurricanes again, as Meier gets her first coaching victory in Chapel Hill in a 78-66 romp.
Miami takes over after the first few minutes, taking a 16-point lead at 34-18 on Morgan Stroman’s second straight layup with 5:14 left in the half.
But the Tar Heels rally, slicing the margin to 38-34 before Stefanie Yderstrom’s 3-pointer at the buzzer for the Hurricanes.
Riquna Williams has 11 points at the break and Stroman 10 for Miami, which shoots only 32.5 percent but is 7-for-15 from outside the 3-point arc.
UNC, led by Chay Shegog’s 10 points, shoots 46.4 percent before the break but is 0-for-9 outside the arc. Miami leads the rebound battle 26-18.
The Tar Heels are better to start the second half, tying the contest at 44-44 on a Shegog bucket at 15:33.
But the Hurricanes shrug it off, scoring the next 10 points including Williams’ layup from Stefanie Yderstrom that makes it 54-44 with 12:02 left.
The Tar Heels’ closest approach is six after that, and the visitors lead 77-59 on a pair of Stroman free throws at 1:48.
Williams leads the Hurricanes with 25 points on 9-for-31 shooting and nine rebounds. Stroman adds 16 with 11 rebounds, while Shenise Johnson adds 16 points and six rebounds and Yderstrom 14 points.
Laura Broomfield paces the Tar Heels with 18 points and 15 rebounds, followed by Shegog with 14 points and eight rebounds.
Miami shoots only 35.7 percent but is 10-for-24 from 3-point range, while the Tar Heels shoot 39.7 but are an icy 2-for-22 outside the arc. Miami wins the rebound battle 46-40, and commits 20 turnovers to UNC’s 23.
They said it …
Miami coach Katie Meier: “The significance of this win is not lost on me or the team. I absolutely think Carolina is an awesome team, and we’ve had a stretch here where we’ve played an awesome team after an awesome team after an awesome team. My assistant coaches — every time I go and get prepped for a game — say, “Oh, this team is unbelievable!’ We’ve had three in a row here that are just great basketball teams and we’ve had to adjust how we play and ask a ton from my kids.”
UNC coach Sylvia Hatchell: “I think Johnson is probably the best player in the league. Not only does she score, but she does so many things out there. In my book, I think that she is the best player in the league without a doubt. I say all the time good shooting cures a multitude of sins, and we’re 2-for-22 from the ‘3’ and they’re 10-for-24, so there’s the difference. You’ve got to make your shots. They out-hustled us, they played harder than we did, and they made shots.”
Stroman: “This means a lot. My whole family (from Hopkins, S.C.) was here. So the fact that we had fans on the road and were just having fun out there made everything easier.”
Broomfield: “It was pretty frustrating. Our defense was the most frustrating thing for me. They just kept getting easy layups. We weren’t shooting well tonight, but easy layups (by Miami) don’t help us when we’re trying to make a comeback.”
What does it all mean?
That Miami moves ahead of the Tar Heels in the conference race. UNC has a seven-day layoff before traveling to N.C. State, and still could finish first in the league by beating Duke in the regular-season finale if Duke loses another game first.
Stars of the game
Play of the game
Yderstrom’s 3-pointer to make it 69-55 with 5:28 left.
UNC leads 9-4.
UNC: Lost 1.
Miami: Won 2.
Miami at Boston College, Thursday, 7 p.m.
UNC at N.C. State, Feb, 21, 7 p.m.