- Associated Press - Sunday, January 4, 2015

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) - Stephanie Mavunga is doing her best to help No. 9 North Carolina make up for the loss of an injured starter.

Mavunga had 23 points and 12 rebounds and the Tar Heels beat rival North Carolina State 72-56 on Sunday in the Atlantic Coast Conference opener for both teams.

The 6-foot-3 sophomore made 10 of 14 shots to go with a career-best five assists, four blocks and a steal in 30 minutes for UNC (14-1), which blew it open with a dominating run after halftime against the Wolfpack (9-5). The Tar Heels played their third game since losing starting forward Xylina McDaniel to a leg injury possibly for the season, and Mavunga has stepped up in the past two as the Tar Heels adjust.

“I guess the game is just coming to me more,” Mavunga said. “(Longtime assistant Andrew Calder) is always yelling at me to be patient, so I think I’m being more patient. … I think I’ve been doing a better job of posting and my teammates have really helped me out with that.”

Mavunga was coming off a career-high 26 points on 13-for-14 shooting against East Tennessee State two days earlier. She is shooting 82 percent in the past two games as coach Sylvia Hatchell experiments with four-guard lineups.

“We try to get it to her,” Hatchell said. “At halftime that’s what we talk about. But if you start doubling down, she threw it out a couple of times tonight. … Stephanie’s definitely learning to know where her teammates are a little bit better in there.”

Brittany Rountree added 14 points and four 3-pointers for the Tar Heels, and Allisha Gray had 13 points and a career-high 12 rebounds. Mavunga and Gray combined to score seven baskets in the paint in the first 6-plus minutes of the second half to go with a transition 3 from Rountree, sparking the 20-3 run that turned a 34-25 lead into a 26-point margin.

Dominique Wilson scored 15 points to lead the Wolfpack, who finished at 30 percent.

“They’re long and athletic and getting to you a little bit quicker maybe than some of the teams you’ve faced,” N.C. State coach Wes Moore said. “So it takes you a little while to adjust. You get a couple of shots blocked so you get a little rushed trying to get your shot off a little quicker. I think that affected us some.”

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TIP-INS

N.C. State: N.C. State scrapped its way to a 42-39 rebounding advantage, including 21-14 on the offensive glass. That led to a 19-11 edge in second-chance points. … Miah Spencer and Len’Nique Brown-Hoskin each added 11 points.

UNC: The school held a moment of silence in honor of ESPN sportscaster Stuart Scott, a UNC alumnus who died Sunday after a long fight with cancer. … UNC shot 52 percent after halftime and finished with a 38-20 edge in points in the paint.

RIVALRY STREAK

The win marked UNC’s seventh straight in the long rivalry, with N.C. State’s last win coming in February 2011 and its last win in Chapel Hill coming nearly five years ago.

SHORT-HANDED WOLFPACK

N.C. State is thin in the backcourt after losing senior captain Krystal Barrett to a knee injury on Dec. 19 and freshman Chloe Jackson to a foot injury in November. “We’re short-handed right now so these kids are having to play a lot of minutes,” Moore said. “We got in some foul trouble, that made it even tougher, but they competed.”

UP NEXT

N.C. State hosts Virginia Tech on Thursday night.

UNC travels to Pittsburgh on Thursday night.

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Follow Aaron Beard on Twitter at https://www.twitter.com/aaronbeardap

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