Carolinas Challenge: Heels roll; Chants lose at buzzer

uncwhoops15Allisha Gray scored 20 points and Stephanie Mavunga added 10 points and 11 rebounds to help No. 6 North Carolina beat Elon 85-67 at the Carolinas Challenge on Sunday at the Myrtle Beach Convention Center.

The Tar Heels (11-1) led just 46-43 at halftime, but opened the final period with a 23-8 run to take control over Elon, coached by former North Carolina star and NCAA tournament star Charlotte Smith.

Mavunga started the Tar Heels’ decisive charge with a putback, Xylina McDaniel added a jumper and Gray hit a 3-pointer to give them a 53-43 lead. Mavunga had two more baskets in the run and when Brittany Rountree made her third 3 of the game, North Carolina was up 69-51 with 12:02 left.

Sam Coffer had 16 points to lead Elon (5-4), which has lost four of its last five games.

McDaniel had 14 points before leaving in the second half with an ankle injury. Latifah Coleman had 15 points for North Carolina.

Lauren Brown had 15 points and Malaya Johnson 10 for the Phoenix. Elon scoring leader Zora Stephenson, averaging 13 points a game coming in, was held scoreless and missed all six of her 3-point tries.

Smith is only one of two North Carolina players to have her jersey retired and is fourth all time in Tar Heels total points and second in total rebounds. She spent from 2002-11 as one of Hatchell’s top assistants until leaving for Elon four seasons ago. Hatchell and Smith hugged when the game ended.

After North Carolina opened a 32-14 lead against the Colonial Athletic Association opponent, the Phoenix used a 16-3 run to get back in it. Elon cut down on the outside shots, instead pushing past the Tar Heels for easy buckets. When Lauren Brown hit a layup with 4:54 left, North Carolina’s lead had shrunk to 35-30.

The Tar Heels again built a double-digit lead after Mavunga’s jumper made it 43-33 with 2:01 to go. Elon again pushed the pace in a 10-3 run, Brown getting a three-point play and a three and Lauren Hudson hitting a basket to cut things to 46-43 at the half.

The Tar Heels are 30-6 all time in games along the Grand Strand.

St. Francis 75, Coastal Carolina 72

AJ Jordan’s 3-point attempt at the end of regulation to try to force overtime would not fall, and the Saint Francis Red Flash held on to defeat the Chanticleers 75-72 Sunday evening at the Myrtle Beach Convention Center as part of the CresCom Bank Carolinas Challenge.

The loss is Coastal’s third of the season against a non-conference team, and drops the Chanticleers to 7-3 overall, 1-0 in the Big South. The win was the first of the season for Saint Francis, which now holds a 1-8 record.

SFU’s Alexa Hayward, who entered the contest as the nation’s fourth-leading scorer, recorded a season-high 37 points, shooting 11-23 from the field and 7-15 from beyond the arc. She was also a perfect 8-8 from the free throw line, and grabbed six rebounds.

Jordan’s 19 points led the Chants as the senior guard finished 6-20 from the field, and 7-8 from the line. Jordan also added seven rebounds, two assists and three steals. Ced Gibson posted 17 points, and Anna Vogt had 16 to round out Coastal’s double-digit scorers. Vogt came up just shy of a double-double, finishing with nine rebounds. Alexis Robinson led all players with 10 rebounds.

The Chanticleers trailed the Red Flash 34-25 at the half after Saint Francis hit six of its 17 3-point attempts. Five of those baskets came off the fingertips of Hayward, who led all players with 21 points in the opening frame.

The game started at a quick pace as each team poured in eight points in the opening two minutes. Then, after an almost three-minute scoreless spell, a 3-pointer from SFU’s Rochelle Reece sparked a 10-5 run for the Red Flash. The Chanticleers then went to work at the free throw line, eventually tying the score at 18-18 at the midway point of the first.

The Chants hit just two field goals in the remainder of the first, each of which came from Gibson. On the other side of the ball, Hayward closed the final 10 minutes of the opening period with three treys.

Coastal’s defense on Hayward tightened in the second half as the senior guard was limited to just two baskets from distance in the period’s opening 10 minutes, and the Chants managed to gain some ground. Several times throughout the period the Chants were able to bring the margin to within three points or fewer, but SFU managed to stay ahead.

With just under seven minutes remaining, Gibson hit a 3-pointer then rolled one in from the paint to bring Coastal within one. Two Hayward free throws and a jumper from Aisha Brock put the Red Flash back up by five, but a 3-pointer from Stephanie Isaacs cut the lead to 68-66.

The teams traded baskets for the next four minutes, resulting in a 73-70 lead for SFU. A Gibson jumper then brought the Chants within one, resulting in a Saint Francis timeout. Coming out of the break, Hayward drew a foul and knocked down both free throws to force the Chants into a 3-point situation with just 14 seconds remaining. The Chants called a timeout after gaining half court, but the resulting 3-point try from Jordan clanged off the iron and sealed the win for Saint Francis.

The Chants finished the game shooting 37.3 percent from the field while hitting 25 of their 33 free throw attempts. Saint Francis, meanwhile, shot 43.8 percent from the field, and 35.7 percent from beyond the arc.

The Chanticleers return to action after the Christmas break to host Big South rival High Point on Dec. 30. Opening tip between the Chants and Panthers is set for 7 p.m. at The HTC Center.

Photo courtesy of UNC Athletics

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