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Question of the Day
GREENSBORO, N.C. — Having a short bench finally took its toll on No. 10 Maryland.
The defending Atlantic Coast Conference tournament champions ran out of steam in the semifinals when No. 15 North Carolina claimed a 72-65 win Saturday.
Second-seeded Maryland (24-7) took on the physical Tar Heels less than 24 hours after needing overtime — and a triple-double from Alyssa Thomas — to beat Wake Forest.
And while Thomas nearly did it again, finishing three assists shy of a second straight triple-double, the Terrapins — who are down to essentially a six-player rotation because of injuries — simply didn’t have enough fresh bodies to keep up with the deeper Tar Heels.
“Carolina came out much more physical, much more aggressive (in the second half), and for us it was a situation where their depth and their numbers were able to wear us out,” coach Brenda Frese said.
While depth was a huge problem for the Terps, North Carolina (28-5) found its star of the game buried deep on its bench: Latifah Coleman scored 15 of her career-high 17 points in the final 6-plus minutes to help the third-seeded Tar Heels rally.
“We shipped her in from Mars this morning,” coach Sylvia Hatchell quipped.
Tierra Ruffin-Pratt added 20 points for the Tar Heels, who rallied from a 14-point halftime deficit — the second-biggest comeback in the history of the tournament — by shooting 50 percent in the second half.
They will face No. 6 Duke in the title game Sunday. It’s the eighth time the fierce rivals will meet with a conference championship on the line, with the Blue Devils winning five of those previous seven matchups.
Thomas finished with 26 points, 12 rebounds for the Terrapins, who tied it at 60 on Katie Rutan’s 3-pointers with 2:45 left.
Coleman — a redshirt sophomore who averages 3.4 points in roughly 15 minutes per game — responded by hitting jumpers on the next two possessions.
Ruffin-Pratt followed with four straight free throws to propel the Tar Heels to their league-record 18th berth in the title game but first since 2008.
Walteia Rolle had 19 points and 11 rebounds, and ACC rookie of the year Xylina McDaniel had 12 rebounds for the Tar Heels.
Maryland entered as the nation’s No. 2 team in rebounding margin at plus-15 but North Carolina outrebounded the Terps by six to deny them their 14th berth in the finals.
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