CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) — Nikki Dixon helped Clemson get off to a fast start. Then she got into foul trouble, and the Tigers quickly fell off the pace.
Dixon had 21 points, but Clemson shot 39 percent in a 78-55 loss at No. 9 North Carolina on Thursday night.
Dixon scored seven quick points as Clemson (9-9, 1-3 Atlantic Coast Conference) grabbed an 11-2 lead, but she went to the bench with her second foul with 15:22 remaining in the first half.
"That hurt us because we have to take her out, and then she kind of gets out of sync and we get out of sync as a team," Clemson coach Audra Smith said. "That takes a lot away from us offensively because she's so good at attacking the basket and then finishing and also opening things up for other people."
By the time Dixon returned, the Tar Heels (15-3, 3-1) had used a 9-0 run to climb back into the game.
"I felt like when North Carolina started to make their run and come back, we kind of folded a little bit," Smith said. "We kind of took a step back versus continuing to do the things that had gotten us the lead."
Charmaine Tay had 10 points for Clemson, which has dropped three of four.
Diamond DeShields scored 24 points and Allisha Gray had 16 for the Tar Heels (15-3, 3-1 Atlantic Coast Conference), who won for the 10th time in their last 11 games. Stephanie Mavunga had 10 points as North Carolina beat Clemson for the 20th time in the past 21 meetings.
The Tar Heels overcame an early 11-point deficit with a 25-4 run in the first half. DeShields scored 12 points during the spurt.
Her first field-goal attempt was a 3-pointer that tied it at 17 with 8:45 left in the first half. The Tar Heels never trailed again.
"I thought we settled into the game and the speed of the game," said North Carolina associate head coach Andrew Calder, who is filling in for coach Sylvia Hatchell as she battles leukemia.
North Carolina led 38-26 at halftime and then scored the first 10 points of the second half to pull away.
DeShields entered the game having made only 14 of 58 3-point attempts all season. But she went 4 for 8 from long range against the Tigers.
She showed no signs of being bothered by a heavy wrap protecting a broken bone in her left hand.
"It's actually helped me," DeShields said. "When I broke my hand, I started shooting better. It's my guide hand, and I guess before I broke it that I was incorporating this hand into my shot, which was not allowing the ball to go in the right path. Now, it's not even touching the ball barely."
While DeShields sparked North Carolina's offense, Clemson sputtered. The Tigers went 8½ minutes late in the first half with just one field goal.