The North Carolina women's basketball team stayed alive in the NCAA Tournament on Sunday night, beating #1 seed South Carolina 65-58 to advance to the Stanford Regional final. The win was UNC's second this season over the Gamecocks which are coached by former Virginia star Dawn Staley. It is the first time since 2008 UNC had advanced to the Elite Eight.
UNC never trailed in the game opening up with an Allisha Gray three and taking an eight point edge into the locker room. The lead grew to as much as 11 at 33-22 at which point South Carolina went on a run to eventually cut the margin to 43-42 with 8:42 left in the game. The Gamecocks best shot at retaking the lead came on a Khadijah Sessions drive and layup which was waved off due to a charge call. UNC responded with a pair of threes by Jessica Washington and Diamond DeShields to push the lead back up to seven.
South Carolina would make another run and over the final minutes the teams traded baskets keeping the deficit between two and four points. With UNC up three, the Gamecocks started fouling but UNC made 6-8 from the line including Brittany Rountree hitting 5-6 to effectively seal the deal. DeShields led UNC with 19 points and Stephanie Mavunga scored 13 points and grabbed nine rebounds.
Next up for UNC is #2 seeded Stanford which the Heels will face on Tuesday at Stanford. This will be a tough hill to climb but if UNC can advance to the Final Four, there is a chance Sylvia Hatchell will return to the bench for the first time this season.