Chapel Hill, NC (SportsNetwork.com) - Allisha Gray had 17 points and Latifah Coleman scored 15, as fourth-seeded North Carolina claimed a 71-65 win over the No. 13 seed Liberty Flames in the first round of the NCAA Women's Tournament at Carmichael Arena.
Stephanie Mavunga racked up 12 points, nine rebounds and five blocks for North Carolina. The Tar Heels (25-8) will host the winner between fifth-seeded Ohio State and 12th-seeded James Madison in the second round of the Greensboro region on Monday night, with a trip to the Sweet 16 on the line.
Ashley Rininger had 19 points, 13 rebounds and three steals -- all game-highs -- for the Big South Conference Tournament champion Lady Flames (26-7). Karly Buer added 14 points in a losing effort.
Liberty shot just 25 percent from the floor and went 0-for-7 from the perimeter in the first half, while UNC shot 51.6 percent. The Tar Heels closed out the half with a 7-0 spurt to take a 14-point lead into intermission, their largest advantage of the game.
The Flames hung around in the second half and cut the deficit down to six in the final minute, but that was as close as they would get.
UNC was out-rebounded by a 52-35 margin, including 24-9 on the offensive glass, yet the Tar Heels still managed to give Hall of Fame coach Sylvia Hatchell a victory in her return to the NCAA Tournament after a year away to battle leukemia.