Women's Hoops Strong-Arms North Carolina, 66-63

Mauriana Clayton rebounds at UNC (photo by Reagan Lunn)
Mauriana Clayton rebounds at UNC (photo by Reagan Lunn)

Chapel Hill, N.C. - Behind a team effort and a big third quarter, the Pacific women's basketball team posted a 66-63 win at North Carolina Wednesday afternoon. Mauriana Clayton posted a double-double with 10 points and 11 rebounds, while Erin Butler led the Tigers with 15 points and grabbed eight boards.

Desire Finnie scored 12 points off the bench and GeAnna Luaulu-Summers posted 11 points, seven rebounds and three assists. The Tigers improve to 3-2 on the season.

Pacific controlled the tempo and the game from the second possession on, with an early 8-2 lead. UNC did lead by as many as seven, but Pacific used a 20-10 third quarter to seize control and never trailed in the fourth quarter.

The Tigers out-rebounded the taller, longer, Tar Heels 48-47, and grabbed 18 offensive boards. Pacific wore out the talented Carolina team coming off a 2015 Elite Eight appearance that lacks numbers with a seven-player rotation this season.

The Tigers jumped out to a 8-2 lead on a pair of threes from Butler and a lay-up inside from Eli Lopez Sagrera. After the Tar Heels pulled within 10-8, Finnie drained a three-pointer before UNC reeled off a 5-0 run. The rest of the quarter turned into a free throw contest as the Tigers led 18-16 after one.

Finnie sparked the Tigers in the second, scoring nine points with four jumpers, including an and-one. The old-fashioned three point play put Pacific in front 24-19. North Carolina surged back with four free throws, a jumper and a three from Stephanie Watts to take a 28-24 lead, their largest of the first half, but Finnie hit back-to-back jumpers to tie the game at 28-28, and gave Pacific a 32-30 with a soft baseline floater. A pair of free throws and a three from Jamie Cherry led the Tar Heels back ahead, 35-32 with 2:09 to go in the quarter, but Najah Queenland answered with a lay-up to cut the margin to one. Cherry added a pair of free throws to end the half, as the Tar Heels led 37-34 at the break.

Pacific shot 31 percent (11-of-35) in the first half, while UNC shot 34 percent (11-of-32). The Tigers trailed in rebounding by just one, 23-22, against the much taller and longer Tar Heels. Pacific forced 10 turnovers while committing nine.

In the second half, UNC opened with two quick baskets before Butler hit a three-pointer to curb the momentum. From there Pacific closed with a 17-6 run as they outscored UNC 20-10 in the third quarter.

Luaulu-Summers cut the Tar Heels' lead to 41-40 with a triple with 6:37 left. Eackles hit a short jumper to put Pacific in front and the Tigers never trailed in the final 14:09. Clayton and Queenland each posted jumpers to make it a 10-0 Pacific run and a 46-43 lead.

Xlinda McDaniel hit a jumper to cut Pacific's lead to one, but Clayton gained inside position and got to the free throw line. Her throws rested a three-point lead and after UNC closed to within one again at 48-47, Luaulu-Summers hit a floater in the paint and the  Tigers closed the half with four more points for a seven-point advantage at 54-47.

After UNC opened the fourth with a bucket, Butler delivered her fourth three-pointer for an eight-point lead and enough cushion for Pacific to hang on.

UNC scored six straight on a three and jumper from Jamie Cherry and a pair of fre throws, but Clayton tallied in the paint as Pacific led 59-56 with 4:55 to go. Queenland added a jumper with 3:45 left for a 61-57 lead but Destinee Walker answered with a three-pointer as the Tar Heels closer to within 61-60.

But Luaulu-Summers scored with 2:20 to go and the Tigers posted the stop on defense. After a free throw from Stephanie Watts with 1:03 left, the Tigers forced an errant three and Eackles grabbed the rebound with 26 seconds left. North Carolina, with an abundance of fouls to give, spent the next 12  seconds getting Pacific to the free throw line.

Butler hit two throws with 14 seconds left to give Pacific a two-possession lead. The Tigers deflected a three-point attempt, but it was caught by McDaniel in the paint in traffic and she drew a foul. The ensuing free throws cut the gap to 65-63, but Pacific got the ball in, Luaulu-Summers hit a free throw with under eight seconds left and the Tigers celebrated as the desperation heave by Walker was well off target.

The Tigers won for the fifth time in their last eight meetings with unranked teams from the so-called "Power Conferences" and dropped UNC to 4-3 on the year.

Pacific will spend Thanksgiving in Chapel Hill before headed to Boiling Springs, N.C. for a Saturday game at Gardner-Webb which tips off at 10 a.m. Pacific Time, 1 p.m. Eastern.