No. 10 UNC women fall to No. 8 Maryland, 79-70

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So much for Stephanie Mavunga and No. 10 North Carolina's talented freshman class easing into ACC play.

The Tar Heels forward got a rough initiation into the league from reigning player of the year Alyssa Thomas and the rest of No. 8 Maryland's powerful front line in a 79-70 loss on Sunday.

''I learned that I need to take my time,'' Mavunga said. ''Sometimes I just throw it up there. ... Just because it's close doesn't mean that I can't miss it.''

Mavunga - one of four UNC freshman starters making their conference debuts - scored 15 points to lead the Tar Heels (12-3, 0-1 ACC), who had their seven-game winning streak snapped.

Latifah Coleman had 13 points and freshman Diamond DeShields finished with 12.

''I was nervous a little bit before the game because it's the first ACC game as a freshman and it's something new,'' Mavunga said. ''It's good to have it already over with now, because now you know it's not like a first time the next time.''

DeShields, the team's leading scorer who missed the James Madison win three days earlier with a left hand injury, was 3 of 13 from the field while playing with a wrap on her hand.

''Every player gets nicked up. Something you have to play through,'' DeShields said. ''I was a little timid at first but I started to let it go. There's nothing to be worried about. ... It'll be fine.''

Thomas gave Maryland a strong start to its farewell tour through the ACC, finishing with 21 points and 14 rebounds.

''For our seniors, it's our last year in general but this being (Maryland's) last year in the ACC, we want to go out with a bang,'' Thomas said.

Shatori Walker-Kimbrough added 16 points while Katie Rutan had 14 points and four 3-pointers.

Thomas - a two-time ACC player of the year - polished off her 13th consecutive double-double to help the Terps (13-1, 1-0) win their 11th straight.

''I thought, obviously, A.T. was A.T,'' Maryland coach Brenda Frese said of Thomas.

Big Ten-bound Maryland led for all but about 90 seconds of this one but let much of an 18-point lead slip away before holding on to win its toughest test since a 72-55 loss to No. 1 Connecticut two months ago.

North Carolina cut its deficit to six with 7 minutes left on Mavunga's layup that made it 61-55.

Thomas followed with second-chance buckets on consecutive trips downcourt and the Tar Heels - who went without a field goal for 3 crucial minutes down the stretch - didn't get closer than seven in the final 5 minutes.

''We didn't lose our composure,'' Frese said. ''We knew they'd make runs. ... It was great that we had a buffer in terms of the lead, and I thought A.T. imposed her will. She was not going to let us be denied, and she showed it by getting on the glass, making big plays.''

That came after Rutan helped Maryland build its huge lead midway through the half. She hit 3s roughly 20 seconds apart to push the lead to 50-37 with about 16 1/2 minutes left.

She added another one about a minute later, Thomas followed with a jumper and Rutan hit a layup in transition that made it 57-39 with 13 1/2 minutes remaining.

''With the amount of time that was on the clock, either we were going to let them keep doing that and lose by a large margin, or we had to tighten up,'' DeShields said. ''That's plenty of time to score 18 points.''

North Carolina then started its comeback by reeling off nine straight points, with Brittany Rountree's layup with 11 1/2 minutes left making it 57-48.

Hall of Fame coach Sylvia Hatchell watched from a sideline television platform for the second straight game. Hatchell, who has been out all year while she receives treatment for leukemia, addressed the crowd at halftime and urged those in attendance to join the national donor registry.


Follow Joedy McCreary on Twitter at http://twitter.com/joedyap

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