CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – The sixth-ranked North Carolina Tar Heels suffered their first setback of the season, suffering a 70-55 loss to the 16th-ranked Oregon State Beavers at Carmichael Arena on Tuesday.
The double-double effort from Allisha Gray (20 points, 10 rebounds), along with supporting play from Stephanie Mavunga (14 points, 7 rebounds), and Xylina McDaniel (8 points, 4 rebounds) wasn’t enough to finish North Carolina’s comeback effort.
Oregon State’s Ruth Hamblin dominated in the paint at both ends of the floor, leading the Beavers with a 17-point, 10-rebound, and five-block performance that disoriented the Tar Heels.
Guards Jamie Weisner (14 points, 4 rebounds) and Sydney Wiese (13 points, 8 assists) dropped five of seven total team three-pointers that helped establish and maintain the buffer between the two teams throughout.
North Carolina was outrebounded (50-43) and finished with a season-low 28-percent shooting performance that included converting only 1-of-14 from beyond the arc, another season low, while launching 76 total shot attempts at the basket.
“They just beat us,” North Carolina head coach Sylvia Hatchell said.
“There’s some things we did good, but we didn’t shoot the ball good. Second half, we were 7-for-20 from the foul line, that’s pretty bad. Our shooting was really, really bad tonight.”
Both teams entered the game as two of only 14 remaining teams in the country with an undefeated record.
However, by the end, the visitors from the Pac-12 conference left with a top-10 road win, the first in their history, extending their record to 8-0 while North Carolina fell to 9-1.
It was evident from the opening tip that the Beavers had scouted the Tar Heels well and executed accordingly.
“That’s a heck of a basketball team,” Oregon State head coach Scott Rueck said.
“We talked about their strengths. Their strengths are rebounding the basketball, their strengths are transition, and, they’re so athletic. That’s a big part of what they do.”
With that in mind, the Beavers took a 3-0 lead at the 19:10 mark and didn’t trail from that point forward.
It took the Tar Heels until the 17:31 mark to score their first points, a jumper from Mavunga.
Both teams traded baskets for the next five minutes, but Oregon State started to pull away, extending it’s margin incrementally to five, then eight and to eventually lead by as many as 15 points during the opening half.
Following two straight field goals from Mavunga, the Beavers carried a 37-25 lead into the halftime break.
Trailing after 20 minutes wasn’t new for the Tar Heels, chasing both Oregon and then No.18 Rutgers before coming up with wins in both contests recently.
However, the fine line that they tiptoed during those games caught up with them against a Beavers squad that executed well under pressure.
Both teams came back onto the floor with high energy to start the second half and battled early on for rebounds and shot attempts.
The Beavers didn’t falter and extended their lead to 44-27, putting together a quick 7-2 run as Wiese capped it off by dropping a three from the top.
The Tar Heels tried to rely on their grinding defensive play that has worn opponents down all season to generate the offense, but its lack of finish kept them from pulling much closer to the Beavers.
“We get motivated on our defense off our offense because we’re scoring,” Hatchell said.
“When we score, then we get back down there and play good defense. We wanna’ play good defense so we get the ball back and we can go down and score again. Because we weren’t scoring and got frustrated, then we weren’t playin’ good on defense. It was just sort of a chain reaction.”
North Carolina showed its strongest pushback and cut the Oregon State lead down to 52-39 with 10:25 to play, but the Beavers’ matching offensive and defensive play minimized the impact of that 7-0 run quickly.
Trailing 62-47, Hatchell called a timeout with 2:03 to play.
Gray eventually scored seven consecutive points, including hitting a three with 54 seconds remaining – the Tar Heels’ first and lone made basket from the perimeter.
However, the Beavers matched with eight more points to maintain the double-digit lead.
Though the Tar Heels didn’t go down without a fight, continuing to play for rebounds and turnovers, they just couldn’t convert enough shot attempts to get any closer.
“Everybody’s frustrated with their selves,” McDaniel said.
“Angry, sad, but I mean we’re supposed to feel that right now. Tomorrow we will bounce back, you know, watch film, and learn from all this and get it together for the next game.”
For the Beavers, it was the highest profile win they posted this season and in their history since a 1992 triumph over Stanford.
It was a game and loss that Hatchell and her team would remember for a while.
“It felt like the second half we get things rollin’ out there,” Hatchell said.
“We got to the foul line there several times, but we just couldn’t make foul shots to get it down lower…Tonight was a different experience and we’ll learn from it. Hopefully, it’ll make us better down the road.”