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No. 12 North Carolina women beat UCLA 78-68

Published on NewsOK Modified: November 17, 2013 at 8:43 pm •  Published: November 17, 2013

LOS ANGELES (AP) — With three starters in foul trouble and another hurt early in the second half, North Carolina needed a boost.

Once again, they turned to a newcomer to lead them.

Allisha Gray had a career-high 30 points and 10 rebounds off the bench in the Tar Heels' 78-68 victory over UCLA on Sunday. She became the first UNC freshman to score that many points in a game since current assistant coach Ivory Latta in 2004.

"My main focus is to do whatever I can to help the team," Gray said. "My teammates did a good job looking for me. Thanks to my teammates, I wouldn't have these 30 points without them."

The freshman made six 3-pointers to help the foul-plagued Tar Heels (2-1), who lost Brittany Rountree after she scratched her left eye early in the second half. Rountree had three fouls, and fellow starters Diamond DeShields and Xylina McDaniel had four. Stephanie Mavunga fouled out with nine points.

"The referees called the it the way it's supposed to be called," said Andrew Calder, who is guiding the Tar Heels while Hall of Fame coach Sylvia Hatchell is treated for leukemia. "That's the change in the game and we just have to adjust."

The Tar Heels were whistled for 31 fouls to 25 for UCLA. They made 22 of 34 free throws, while the Bruins were 27 of 37.

North Carolina traveled across the country to earn its first win in Los Angeles, where the Tar Heels had been 0-2. They tied the all-time series 4-4. Jessica Washington added 16 points and McDaniel scored 13.

"They battled us hard," Calder said. "UCLA gave great effort."

Thea Lemberger scored 19 points for the Bruins (1-2), who lost to their second ranked opponent. They opened the season with a 28-point loss to then-No. 17 Nebraska on the road.

"I challenged our team before the game that, win or lose, did you grow?" UCLA coach Cori Close said. "My team grew. We have a chance to grow and do something special."

Antonye Nyingifa had 18 points and 11 rebounds before fouling out, Nirra Fields had 12 points and 10 rebounds, and Lauren Holiday had 10 points and 11 rebounds in her first game in nearly a year. She sustained a head injury last Nov. 25 and missed the rest of the season.

"It was a physical game," Nyingifa said. "We know there's going to be new officiating changes, that they're going to make it tight. We can do better at the free throw line."

UCLA tied the game once in both halves, but could never grab the lead. Nyingifa scored the Bruins' first six points of the second half, tying it at 36-all on a jumper in the paint.

Gray answered with the first of her three straight 3-pointers that launched the Tar Heels on a 16-2 run and extended their lead to 52-38. Gray is part of a freshmen class ranked No. 1 nationally, and she's led her team in scoring in each of their three games. Her 3-pointers and 8 of 8 shooting from the line were career bests despite four fouls.

"What a player," Close said of Gray. "She was mature beyond her years today."

The Tar Heels built their lead to 19 points three times, the last at 66-47 on a basket by Mavunga, her last before fouling out with 4:33 to play.

They got outscored 21-12 by the Bruins to end the game.

"We got in some situations where I thought we got some good looks, but we did not make them," Calder said. "They beat us on the boards, not happy about that at all."

UCLA owned a 52-43 edge on the boards, helped by the three players with double figure rebounds.

Rountree went down while scrambling for the ball just before the Tar Heels' big run. She cried out in pain and eventually lay on the floor while a trainer and Calder looked on. Rountree was helped off the court and later returned to sit on the bench holding an ice pack to her forehead. Calder said he hopes she can play against Coastal Carolina on Thursday.

Rountree's teammate, Erika Johnson, twisted her right ankle.

The Tar Heels hit consecutive 3-pointers to open the game in building an 18-11 lead. The Bruins outscored them 8-2 to tie it up 19-all on a free throw by Holiday after she fell hard to the court.

From there, the Tar Heels closed on a 15-11 spurt to lead 34-30 at the break. Down by 11 during that span, the Bruins scored seven straight points to end the half.

The Bruins are without key players Kari Korver and Kacy Swain for the season after both tore ACLs within a week of each other.