Stephanie Mavunga and her North Carolina teammates on Sunday showed the right way to recover from an ugly loss.
The sophomore center poured in 20 points with 13 rebounds, leading four players in double figures as the Tar Heels blew by Georgia Tech 96-81 at Carmichael Arena.
Jessica Washington came off the bench with a career-high 16 points for the Tar Heels (15-2, 2-1 ACC), while Allisha Gray added 15 points and Brittany Rountree 11.
It was the first game for UNC after a shocking 84-59 loss at resurgent Pittsburgh on Thursday night.
“I thought it was a good game,” said UNC coach Sylvia Hatchell, whose team matched its season offensive high set in a 96-93 double-overtime win at Rutgers on Dec. 4. “We had a good balance and played a lot of kids. We’re still adjusting to Xylina (McDaniel) not being out there (following a serious calf injury in the Dec. 21 win over Elon). The biggest thing is we got on the boards with them, and we’re proud of that because Georgia Tech is always tough.
“Pittsburgh is a lot better than people are giving them credit for. We played bad (against the Panthers) but they played really good. Today was how we need to play for the rest of the year.”
UNC, which leads the series 54-18 but has lost six of the past nine to the Yellow Jackets, scored the game’s first four points and never trailed.
Aaliyah Whiteside led the Yellow Jackets (12-6, 2-2) with 22 points. Georgia Tech junior forward Roddreka Rogers, whose father Rodney was an All-American at Hillside High and Wake Forest University, added 13 points and 11 rebounds for her fifth double-double of the season. Nariah Taylor chipped in 10.
The Yellow Jackets’ Kaela Davis, who played only 16 minutes and fouled out with 5:40 left, finished with a season-low six points.
“I thought North Carolina bounced back particularly well from their loss against Pittsburgh,” Georgia Tech coach MaChelle Joseph said. “It just seemed like we were out of it. This is probably the least competitive we’ve been all season. ...
“We were counting on Kaela because she’s been our leading scorer and one of our leading rebounders all year long. We have to have Kaela, Aaliyah and Roddreka be our most consistent performers.”
UNC shot 46.3 percent to the Yellow Jackets’ 43.8 and won the rebound battle 49-38. The Tar Heels committed 16 turnovers to the visitors’ 20.
“We learned a lesson Thursday night,” Mavunga said. “And we learned mental toughness at 6 a.m. that next morning. We ran a lot of sprints. Not only did we come out lackadaisical and nonchalant with the basketball, but we also got torn up on the rebounds. That’s not Carolina basketball and that’s not how we play. We learned from it and decided to move on.
“During warmups before this game we were nonchalant for a little while there, but we just told each other that we weren’t going to let that happen again. If we come out that way in warmups, it might translate to the game as well.”
UNC’s biggest lead was 21 points, 92-71 on a pair of Latifah Coleman free throws with 2:04 to go.
“We definitely needed to focus on boxing out and rebounding (after the loss),” Washington said. “That was the statement we needed to make. I think we did a lot better job of getting on the boards and getting rebounds, which we didn’t against Pittsburgh.”
The Tar Heels led 50-35 at halftime behind eight points from Mavunga. Their biggest lead of the half was 48-30 on a Jamie Cherry 3-pointer at 1:41.
UNC’s next game is against Notre Dame on Thursday at 7, while Georgia Tech visits the Irish on Sunday.