RALEIGH – Apparently Diamond DeShields is just fine with playing in hostile environments.
DeShields set a school freshman record with 38 points Sunday to help No. 17 North Carolina beat No. 10 N.C. State, 89-82, giving the Tar Heels their second road win against a top-10 opponent in less than a week.
Both times, the 6-foot-1 forward was unstoppable, from scoring 30 points Monday to give North Carolina (20-6, 8-4 Atlantic Coast Conference) its first win at No. 3 Duke in six years to scoring 27 points after halftime against UNC’s other nearby rival.
“It used to be hard for me and I’ve learned to embrace it,” DeShields said of playing on the road. “And that’s what’s happening in these tough environments. ... I want to make believers out of everybody. And anyone who doubts me, I want you after the game to respect me and say, ‘You know, she played a hell of a game.’”
No one would argue otherwise Sunday, that’s for sure.
The daughter of ex-major league baseball player Delino DeShields made 12 of 23 shots, 5 of 9 3-pointers and all nine of her free throws in her 36 minutes. She hit the go-ahead 3 with 8:25 left to start an 11-1 run that finally put the Tar Heels in control.
It’s the most points by a Tar Heels player in a game since Tracy Reid scored 42 points in a triple-overtime loss to Virginia in January 1998.
Associate head coach Andrew Calder, still leading the Tar Heels while Hall of Fame head coach Sylvia Hatchell is away to focus on treatment for leukemia, said DeShields did it despite suffering a leg injury early in Saturday’s practice to put her status in jeopardy against the Wolfpack (22-4, 9-3).
“Diamond’s pull-up game is I think the best in college basketball,” Calder said. “It’s really hard for anybody to say that someone else has a better pull-up game than Diamond DeShields.”
Fellow rookie Allisha Gray scored 15 of her 18 points after halftime in her own big performance for the Tar Heels, who had lost three straight games by a combined 11 points before the 89-78 win against the Blue Devils.
Now, along with Thursday’s win against Pittsburgh, the Tar Heels have won three straight in impressive fashion.
“I mean, it shows the team what we’re capable of doing,” sophomore Xylina McDaniel said. “Playing in Cameron and then playing here, those are two tough places to play. And we got wins in both places. I mean, it’s just showing us if we play our game, play together and play hard, then this is what we can do.”
DeShields and Gray combined to score 42 of UNC’s 50 second-half points and each knocked down four 3s. The duo helped the Tar Heels shoot 59 percent after halftime – including 8-for-12 from behind the arc – and 55 percent for the game, including 13-for-23 from behind the arc.
Kody Burke scored 18 points to lead N.C. State, which had won six straight under first-year coach Wes Moore to reach the top 10 in the program’s best start in 32 years. The Wolfpack fought the Tar Heels tough the entire way, leading, 40-39, at halftime despite leading scorer Markeisha Gatling sitting much of the first half with two fouls.
N.C. State shot 46 percent after halftime, but just couldn’t keep up with the Tar Heels once DeShields got rolling.
“They’re very long, very athletic and it’s a tough matchup, no doubt,” Moore said. “That’s what makes it tough on your offense, when you’re having to answer every time. You give up 89 points, it’s tough to keep answering.”
UNC improved to 11-2 at N.C. State’s Reynolds Coliseum since the 2001-02 season.
The game marked N.C. State’s annual “Hoops 4 Hope” event, with the Wolfpack wearing pink uniforms – the color of breast cancer awareness – with words like “Hope,” ‘’Courage” and “Inspire” on the back where the player’s name normally would be.
The game, started by late Hall of Fame coach Kay Yow, raises money for the Kay Yow Cancer Fund and honors cancer survivors who fill the court at halftime. The crowd of 8,114 was the program’s best attendance for a home game in two years.