Washington scores 16, No. 9 UNC beats Albany 71-56

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) No. 9 North Carolina easily passed its first test playing without injured forward Xylina McDaniel.

Sophomore guard Jessica Washington came off the bench to tie her career high with 16 points, and the Tar Heels beat Albany 71-56 on Tuesday.

Allisha Gray added 15 points and Stephanie Mavunga had 14 for the Tar Heels (12-1).

Shereesha Richards led Albany (7-6) with a season-high 34 points, while Tiana-Jo Carter had seven points and 10 rebounds.

McDaniel, who is probably out for the season after hurting her lower right leg in a win over Elon on Dec. 21, is scheduled for surgery Wednesday. Senior guard Danielle Butts started in her place and finished with four points and 10 rebounds.

''It's nice to be 12-1,'' UNC coach Sylvia Hatchell said. ''Albany is a good team. They weren't that big, but they were skilled. And Richards is as good as we've played against. She's a really nice player.

''We've got several players with aches and pains. ... But we'll just have to wait and see. The rest of them will have to step up and fill that void with Xylina being gone.''

North Carolina outrebounded the Great Danes 42-34, with Mavunga pulling down nine.

''(McDaniel) being out changes my role in a major way,'' said Mavunga, a 6-foot-3 sophomore forward. ''We call each other our `POCs' - POC stands for `Partner on the Court.' I'm so used to having her out there - it's really weird. But I'm getting the hang of things.''

The Tar Heels were up 37-25 at halftime, and their biggest lead was 54-34 on Washington's 3-pointer with 13:58 to play.

''We're trying to get better as a team and play at a really high level, and you've got to play some of the greatest teams out there,'' Albany coach Katie Abrahamson-Hendrickson said. ''That's why we play these games, to see where we are.

''(Richards) doesn't care how many points she scores, but I want her on this stage because otherwise nobody's ever going to know about her. She's a great person, she's a workhorse and she's pretty talented.''

Richards, a junior forward, came in averaging 17.6 points. She set a school record last season with 41 points against Vermont.

Tip-Ins

North Carolina: Gray, a sophomore guard, is challenging assistant coach and Washington Mystics guard Ivory Latta as the most accurate 3-point shooter in school history. Gray was 3 for 7 on Tuesday and is 86 for 220 (.391) for her career. Latta was 345 of 886 (.389).

Albany: The Great Danes were unanimous picks to finish first in the America East. ... They are looking for their fourth straight conference tournament championship.

On the rise

Washington had been averaging 15.9 minutes off the bench but played 26 on Tuesday - only Gray had more with 34.

''I'm not sure if I was getting open,'' Washington said. ''I was just trying to do the little things. I was just trying to fill my role. With (McDaniel) out, other players have got to step up and score more. But really I'm just focusing on hitting open shots.''

Star power

Richards had 27 points in a 54-53 win at Penn State on Nov. 20. She has 1,219 career points.

''If I score a bunch of points and we don't win, what's the point?'' Richards said. ''It's about us getting on the same page so we can actually win these games. I guess I'm able to score a lot because I'm quick, not just like a regular post. I'm versatile.''

Up Next

North Carolina: Hosts East Tennessee State on Friday.

Albany: Opens America East Conference play Saturday at Maine.

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