CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) An early wakeup call turned out to be just what Stephanie Mavunga and No. 8 North Carolina needed.
Mavunga had 20 points and 13 rebounds to lead the Tar Heels over Georgia Tech 96-81 on Sunday.
Jessica Washington tied a career high with 16 points for the Tar Heels (15-2, 2-1 Atlantic Coast Conference), who never trailed.
Allisha Gray had 15 points and Brittany Rountree had 11 points as North Carolina bounced back from an 84-59 loss at Pittsburgh on Thursday.
”We learned a lesson,” Mavunga said. ”We learned mental toughness at 6 a.m. that next morning. We ran a lot of sprints.”
Aaliyah Whiteside scored 22 points and Roddreka Rogers had 13 points and 11 rebounds for Georgia Tech (12-6, 2-2). Nariah Taylor added 10 points for the Yellow Jackets.
The Tar Heels took their biggest lead of the first half at 48-30 on a 3-pointer by Jamie Cherry with 1:42 remaining.
The Yellow Jackets cut the lead to 52-40 early in the second half, but they never got closer.
”It just seemed like we were out of it,” Georgia Tech coach MaChelle Joseph said. ”This is probably the least competitive we’ve been all season. I just didn’t feel like we had the fight in us for 40 minutes the way we normally do.”
North Carolina led 50-35 at halftime, setting a season high for points in the first half. The Tar Heels could have led by even more, but they missed no fewer than five layups and scored just nine points off their 11 offensive rebounds.
The Tar Heels raced out to a 12-4 lead while scoring on their first five possessions. Mavunga and Gray each had two baskets during that stretch, and Rountree capped the spurt with a 3-pointer.
Georgia Tech struggled with Kaela Davis, the ACC’s third-leading scorer, battling foul trouble. Davis, who had scored at least 11 points in each game this season, managed just six points on 2-of-9 shooting.
Davis picked up her second foul less than five minutes into the game and played just 12 minutes in the first half. Her third and fourth fouls came in the first four minutes of the second half, and she spent the next 10 minutes on the bench before fouling out with 5:40 to play.
The Yellow Jackets had won seven of their last eight games overall and six of their last eight meetings against North Carolina.
”It’s so physical when you play them, and they’re just so, so tough,” North Carolina coach Sylvia Hatchell said. ”It was a big win for us.”
Georgia Tech: The Yellow Jackets were called for six offensive fouls in the first half. They had 14 turnovers before halftime after entering the contest averaging 15 turnovers per game.
North Carolina: The Tar Heels wore special shooting shirts during pregame warmups to honor the memory of former ESPN broadcaster and North Carolina graduate Stuart Scott, who recently died of cancer.
The Tar Heels got a big lift from their bench, which outscored Georgia Tech’s reserves 38-24. North Carolina’s substitutes shot a combined 15 of 23 from the floor, including two 3-pointers by Washington.
”Coming off the bench or starting, it really doesn’t make a difference to me,” Washington said. ”I just want to make a difference in the game and help my team out.”
Detroit Lions tight end Eric Ebron sat in the second row across from North Carolina’s bench. Ebron, who played football at North Carolina from 2011-13, is engaged to marry Rountree. While speaking on his cellphone, he raised his fist in celebration when Rountree scored while being fouled in the second half.
Georgia Tech hosts Pittsburgh on Sunday.
North Carolina hosts No. 4 Notre Dame on Thursday.