No. 6 UNC beats No. 18 Rutgers 96-93 in 2 OT
PISCATAWAY, N.J. (AP) North Carolina coach Sylvia Hatchell was thrilled to be part of such an entertaining game. It was a bonus that her team came out on top and remained undefeated.
Allisha Gray scored a season-high 29 points and the No. 6 Tar Heels rallied from a 12-point deficit in the second half to beat No. 18 Rutgers 96-93 in double overtime Thursday night in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.
''It was a great, great game for women's basketball,'' Hatchell said. ''There were two great teams out there with a lot of very talented players. The skill level at times was absolutely incredible. Even when the game was going into overtime I was saying, `Win or lose, this is so good for the game.'''
It was only the second meeting between Hatchell and Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer. The two have combined for 1,878 victories and rank No. 2 and No. 3 on the career wins list, behind Pat Summitt.
''It's quite an honor to play and win a game like this against a legend like Vivian is,'' Hatchell said.
In a back-and-forth game, Rutgers blew a 12-point lead over the final 9:47 of regulation. North Carolina was up by five with 37 seconds left in overtime before the Scarlet Knights rallied to force another OT.
Xylina McDaniel's layup gave the Tar Heels (8-0) a 90-88 lead with 1:45 left. Ariel Butts hit two free throws to tie it, the second of which sat on the rim for a few seconds before dropping in.
Gray then converted a layup with a minute left and Latifah Coleman had a steal and layup to give North Carolina a 94-90 lead. She hit two free throws with 20.9 seconds left to seal the win.
''It came down to heart,'' Gray said. ''We were down 12, Coach Hatchell put us together. We won out of heart, never giving up.''
Betnijah Laney had 24 points and a career-best 24 rebounds to lead Rutgers (6-1).
''I tried to go out and do whatever it was for us to win,'' Laney said. ''We fell a little short with the outcome.''
The Scarlet Knights had the longest current winning streak in the country with 12 straight wins dating to last season's WNIT championship run.
Rutgers got off to a slow start, missing its first nine shots, and trailed 11-0 by the first media timeout. Then Laney got going. The senior forward finished the first half with 14 points and 14 rebounds, including a putback with 1.5 seconds left that made it 33-29.
North Carolina: This is the first time since the Tar Heels started playing basketball in 1976-77 that the team has played four ranked teams before New Year's Day. North Carolina beat UCLA, Oklahoma State and Stanford last month. The Tar Heels will most likely face a fifth ranked opponent when No. 17 Oregon State visits on Dec. 16.
Rutgers: The other meeting between the coaches came on Dec. 29, 1989, when Stringer was at Iowa. The Hawkeyes won that game 106-81 at the Hilton Head Island Super Shootout. ... Rutgers' 100-44 victory over Davidson on Sunday was the first time the school reached that scoring milestone under Stringer. ... The Scarlet Knights' last victory over a top-10 team came against Auburn in the 2009 NCAA tournament.
Laney set the women's basketball rebounding record at the RAC, surpassing the 21 Sue Wicks had at Rutgers' home court in 1987. Laney fell short of the school record set by Sandy Tupurins in 1977 against William Paterson. Laney's previous best was 18 set last week against Colgate.
Hatchell was impressed with Rutgers' up-tempo style.
''I got to give Vivian a compliment,'' she said. ''I love how they run up and down the floor. I've picked at her for years and kidded with her: `You've got those thoroughbreds, let them loose.' She's had so many great players. There are a lot of different ways to get the milk in the jug. She had her way, I had my way. I love that they are playing like that. They are a great team, fun to watch. Fans like it, too.''
North Carolina hosts Appalachian State on Dec. 14. The Tar Heels have exams starting Friday.
Rutgers visits No. 25 Arkansas on Sunday.