CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – The 10th-ranked North Carolina Tar Heels fended off a late-game run by the James Madison Dukes and earned a 74-71 win at Carmichael Arena on Thursday.
Forward Xylina McDaniel led the scoring for the Tar Heels (12-2) with 19 points and was supported by solid offensive efforts from Latifah Coleman (14 points), Allisha Gray (11 points), and Stephanie Mavunga (10 points).
With North Carolina leading 44-38 at the half, James Madison (10-4) kept up its strong rebounding effort and won the ball off the boards (40-31) throughout the game, while pushing the Tar Heels to defend its three double-digit scoring performers in Precious Hall (18 points), Kirby Burkholder (16 points), and Toia Giggetts (14 points).
“We did a lot of very good things today,” UNC associate head coach Andrew Calder said.
“One thing I thought: mentally we weren’t as sharp as I thought we’d been basketball-wise. We need to work and that and no excuses. We are a no excuses team. We need to work on that tomorrow and Saturday. I know we got beat on the boards and I know that very big – by nine – but I do look at the fact that on our 12 misses we got 13 points and on their 15 offensive rebounds they got three points. I did think that was a big difference in the game. We were able to capitalize on the second-chance opportunities that we did get.”
Holding its largest lead of the game, 57-44, with 14:13 to play in the second half, North Carolina had to survive a 10-0 run by the Dukes who narrowed the score to 57-54 just under three minutes later.
However, that’s as close as James Madison would come as McDaniel, Coleman, and Gray hit enough baskets in small bunches that held off a final 8-2 Dukes run during the final six minutes of play.
After narrowly beating James Madison following an 11-day holiday layoff from game competition, the Tar Heels must refocus quickly for their next opponent, the eighth-ranked Maryland Terrapins, who visit Chapel Hill on Sunday to open Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) play.
McDaniel indicated that she was looking forward to facing the Terrapins and getting her team off to a good start against one of the top teams in the country.
“I’ve been really excited because I mean we only are playing them one time, they are leaving the ACC and then we are playing them at home, so I’m excited for that,” McDaniel said.
“I’m ready for our fans to come in and hype us up. I’m ready for Latifah to get off again. I’m really ready to play them again. I didn’t play too well against them last year, so I’m ready to kind of redeem myself. So that’s adding some energy to me.”