UNC women host Ohio State with Sweet 16 on the line
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) Speed will be at a premium when Ohio State takes on North Carolina.
The fourth-seeded Tar Heels (25-8) face the fifth-seeded Buckeyes (24-10) on Monday night in the second round of the NCAA Tournament's Greensboro Region.
The Tar Heels have an established identity of running under Hall of Fame coach Sylvia Hatchell.
The Buckeyes have a powerful offense that ranks fifth nationally in points per game (80.9) and features the nation's leading scorer.
The winner will need the three-day break before the regional semifinals.
Ohio State coach Kevin McGuff quipped Sunday that ''the shot clock operator tomorrow could probably stay home.''
Ohio State has scored at least 80 points in half of its games this season, compiling a 15-2 record in those contests. The Buckeyes have scored at least 74 points in each of their last eight games and have topped 82 points six times during that span.
They were up to their usual tricks in their 90-80 victory over 12th-seeded James Madison in the first round, shooting 48 percent from the floor as three players scored at least 20 points.
Freshman guard Kelsey Mitchell had ''only'' 23 points in the win, two below her NCAA-leading average, but backcourt mate Ameryst Alston had 28 points and eight assists.
''We like to get the ball up the court as fast as we can,'' Alston said. ''We've been successful that way.''
The Buckeyes, playing in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2012, are seeking their first trip to the Sweet 16 since 2011.
The Tar Heels, meanwhile, are trying to reach the Sweet 16 for the third time in five years and the 17th time overall.
North Carolina averages 75.3 points per game, good for 23rd nationally, after finishing in the top 10 in that category in seven of the previous 13 seasons.
The Tar Heels have scored at least 80 points on 11 occasions, going 10-1 in those games.
''They play at a very fast pace, and we're Carolina basketball,'' North Carolina guard Brittany Rountree said. ''We're just as fast or even faster. So I think it will be a great game.''
Some things to know about the game:
NEED FOR SPEED: As fast-paced as this game figures to be, it still won't be fast enough for Hatchell. ''I'd like to see us go to the 24-second shot clock like the WNBA,'' she said. ''I think that would make the women's game even better.'' McGuff agrees with Hatchell.
HART OF THE DEFENSE: Ohio State freshman Alexa Hart has tallied a school-record 128 blocked shots this season, including seven blocks in the first round. She will be key in defending North Carolina post player Stephanie Mavunga, who has scored at least 10 points in 21 of her last 22 games.
RECORD BREAKER: Mitchell has made at least one 3-pointer in each of Ohio State's 34 games, tying the NCAA record for consecutive games with a 3-pointer in a single season. She has made a Big Ten-record 124 3-pointers (on 326 attempts) and is two 3-pointers from tying the NCAA season record shared by Lisa McMullen of Alabama State (1990-91) and Sade Logan of Robert Morris (2007-08).
BOARDING SCHOOL: The Tar Heels got past 13th-seeded Liberty 71-65 in the first round despite allowing 24 offensive rebounds and getting outrebounded 52-35, the their worst rebound margin of the season. ''I think that really hit home to us,'' Mavunga said. ''Getting beat that hard on the boards, it's not likely that you're going to win the game. But I think us having another chance is really big.''
GRAND SCORER: North Carolina's Allisha Gray scored 17 points in the opening round to increase her career scoring total to 1,021 points. She is the third sophomore in program history to score 1,000 points - and the first since North Carolina assistant coach Ivory Latta did so in 2005.