Boston College came into Carmichael Arena primed to accomplish a huge women’s basketball upset.
And if not for North Carolina sophomore center Stephanie Mavunga, the Eagles might have done it.
She finished with 25 points and 14 rebounds as the No. 16 Tar Heels rallied late to top the inspired Eagles 72-60 Sunday.
North Carolina which scored the final 14 points, improved to 18-4, 5-3 in ACC play. Allisha Gray finished with 15 points and 15 rebounds despite shooting 2 for 14 from the floor. N’Dea Bryant finished with a season-high 13 points and tied her career high with seven rebounds.
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The Tar Heels shot 35.2 percent to Boston College’s 31.2, won the rebound battle 54-45 and committed 11 turnovers to BC’s 18.
“Boston College really plays well as a team and they can really frustrate you,” UNC coach Sylvia Hatchell said. “I thought in the last four or five minutes we did a good job defensively. We tried to get it inside in the second half, and we did what we needed to do.
“It was a hard-fought game. In the first half we didn’t quite have our edge or intensity, but in the second half we got all that back.”
The Eagles who didn’t score over the final 7 minutes, 34 seconds, dropped to 9-12 and 1-7.
Kelly Hughes led the Eagles with 14 points and 11 rebounds, followed by Nicole Boudreau and Emilee Daley with 13 points each.
UNC has won seven straight over the Eagles and leads the series 11-1.
“I thought we were going to get that one there for a while, huh?” said Boston College coach Erik Johnson whose team beat visiting Duke 60-56 on Jan. 22 before the Blue Devils topped UNC 74-67 in overtime three days later.
“North Carolina is good and we knew that coming in. We also know that we can play. We’ve been able to play with some really, really good teams.
“We were unable to put the ball in the basket down the stretch. We had some good looks, but we also had some lapses. But I’m proud of our players’ effort.”
Boston College led 36-34 after a first half that had nine lead changes and five ties. Hughes had 12 points at the break for the Eagles, who shot 41.2 percent to UNC’s 35.3. The Eagles outrebounded the Tar Heels 23-22 over the span.
Mavunga had 13 points and Bryant already a season-high 10 at the break.
“For me, when we’re not shooting well from the outside it kind of opens it up a little bit more,” Mavunga said. “I think my teammates do a good job of realizing how it’s going.
“They ran some plays for me and we tried to get the ball inside a lot, and that just builds my confidence up.”
The Eagles took a 45-43 lead on Boudreau’s jumper with 15:46 left, and then stretched the advantage to 53-45 on a pair of Kat Cooper free throws with 12:29 left.
UNC responded with a 9-0 run, taking the lead on Mavunga’s turnaround move in the lane with 10:57 to go.
Boston College’s last lead was at 60-58 on Karima Gabriel’s only basket. Five Tar Heels combined to score the final 14 points.
Bryant said she was particularly inspired to start the game after her 13-year-old sister Daryan lived one of her dreams when she sang a solid version of the national anthem.
“It was pretty cool,” N’Dea Bryant said of her sister’s performance. “It’s something we’ve been waiting on all season. She’s been excited and I’ve been excited all season. I’m glad we both performed well. She’s definitely more talented in other aspects of life than I am.”
The Tar Heels visit Syracuse on Thursday night, while Boston College is at Clemson the same night.