Gray leads No. 6 North Carolina to 65-36 victory
MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (AP) When Allisha Gray got going, so did No. 6 North Carolina.
Gray scored 11 of her 17 points after halftime and the Tar Heels bounced back from their first loss of the season with a 65-36 victory over Maine at the Carolinas Challenge on Friday night.
Despite leading 14-0, North Carolina (10-1) found itself struggling to make shots and led the Black Bears (7-4) just 24-21 with 18 minutes remaining. That's when Gray and the Tar Heels broke off a 20-3 run fueled by four of their five 3-pointers of the game.
''You see in the second half, the shots started falling and we got into the flow of the game,'' said Gray, the sophomore who leads North Carolina in scoring.
It was a welcome sight for North Carolina coach Sylvia Hatchell, who endured a miserable show this past Tuesday night in a 70-55 home loss to No. 16 Oregon State. The Tar Heels shot less than 28 percent from the floor and were just 1 of 14 from three-point distance.
Hatchell kept positive in the locker room. ''I told them they were going to fall in the second half,'' she said.
Still, Sigi Koizar's three-point play drew Maine within 3 points. That's when Latifah Coleman got the decisive run going with a 3, then Gray followed with two foul shots. Coleman had a three-point play before Gray's 3. Brittany Rountree added a 3 and Gray a three-point play.
When Jamie Cherry added a 3-pointer, North Carolina lead 44-24. Maine could not recover.
Black Bears coach Richard Barron said his team missed its chances pressure the Tar Heels. ''You can't just keep taking punches,'' he said. ''You've got to give some back.''
Coleman added 10 points for North Carolina.
Koizar led Maine with nine points.
North Carolina has won 18 of its last 19 games played on the Palmetto State's Grand Strand resort area. It's only loss in that span was to South Carolina, currently the country's No. 1 team, in 2011-12.
The Tars Heels have played at least one game in the Myrtle Beach area for 21 straight seasons.
Maine came in with a six-game win streak, it's longest since taking 13 in a row in 2004-05. But could not shoot its way past North Carolina's tough defense. The Black Bears had 26 turnovers as the Tar Heels collected 13 steals, three apiece by Coleman and Danielle Butts.
North Carolina hoped to wipe out the memories of its poor performance last Tuesday night when it shot 27.6 percent from the field to lose for the first time this year.
The Tar Heels started fast, making their first three attempts and five of the first nine to lead 14-0. The team's pressure defense rattled the usually careful Black Bears, who committed 10 turnovers in the first nine minutes and 17 - matching its season's game average - in the opening 20 minutes.
North Carolina shot 5 of 22 over the final 16 minutes of the period. The Tar Heels missed all 10 3-point attempts, following up a 1-of-14 showing from long range in its last game.
Things improved in the second half as North Carolina went 5 of 12 from behind the arc to pull away.
North Carolina coach Sylvia Hatchell missed many things in her season away because of cancer treatment last year. One of the biggest, she said, was the team's annual holiday trip to the Grand Strand. ''It hurt my heart,'' she said with a big smile.
Hatchell gets one more chance with a game here Sunday against Elon, coached by former Tar Heel star Charlotte Smith.
Allisha Gray said the Tar Heels came in completely over the loss to Oregon State and were ready to make amends at the Myrtle Beach Convention Center. ''We recover fast and we were meaning to take it out in this game,'' she said. ''We picked it up in the second half.''
Maine is making its longest regular-season trip of the season, traveling more than 1,100 miles to face the Tar Heels.
North Carolina has played at least one game on the Grand Strand resort area for 21 straight seasons.
Maine plays at William & Mary on Sunday.
North Carolina finishes its two-game trip to Myrtle Beach by facing Elon on Sunday.