- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 25, 2014

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) - Aerial Powers looked completely comfortable playing in her first NCAA tournament game. Her second didn’t go nearly so well.

Two days after tallying a double-double and setting a program rebounding record in the tournament, the redshirt freshman battled foul trouble and didn’t make a basket during Michigan State’s 62-53 loss at North Carolina in Tuesday night’s second round.

Powers, a 6-foot guard who missed last year with a torn left Achilles’ tendon, finished with two points on 0-for-5 shooting in 17 minutes.

“I think they were really ready for her and up in her,” Spartans coach Suzy Merchant said. “They did a nice job of collapsing on her or getting up in her. And she didn’t respond very well.”

Powers came in as a first-team all-Big Ten pick averaging a team-best 13.8 points. She had 26 points and set a program record for an NCAA game with 18 rebounds in the 30-point win against Hampton on Sunday. But with 6-2 sophomore Xylina McDaniel starting out on her defensively, Powers played just six minutes in a scoreless first half after picking up two fouls.

“The two fouls thing, anytime that happens to her, she struggles, to be honest with you,” Merchant said. “When she has to sit in the first half, I mean, it’s an emotional-mental thing for her. She’s had times when she’s bounced back from it. She’s had times where she hadn’t. That’s where she has to get better.”

For North Carolina, freshman Diamond DeShields had 24 points and a season-high 12 rebounds.

Fellow rookie Allisha Gray added 10 points for the fourth-seeded Tar Heels (26-9), who led by nine at halftime then dominated the opening minutes of the second half to turn the game into a rout. North Carolina ran off 14 straight points to blow the game open, with DeShields scoring twice during that flurry to build a 57-31 lead with 11½ minutes left that allowed the Tar Heels to coast to the Stanford Regional’s round of 16.

The Tar Heels pressured the fifth-seeded Spartans (23-10) and turned the game into the up-and-down pace they wanted. They finished with a 17-4 edge in fast-break points and 15 points off turnovers in a huge improvement from their first-round struggles against UT Martin.

The Tar Heels had reached the regional semifinals just once in the past five seasons, losing in the second round last year and missing the tournament in 2012. Now they’re heading west to face the Oregon State-South Carolina winner on Sunday.

Jasmine Hines matched her season high with 16 points while Tori Jankoska had 14 for the Spartans, who just couldn’t keep up with DeShields and the Tar Heels. The Spartans trailed 36-27 at halftime, and then went 1 for 16 to start the second half - including a 9½-minute stretch of 15 straight misses - to watch the Tar Heels speed out of sight.

The teams entered Tuesday’s game coming off very different first-round games. While Michigan State rolled behind Powers, North Carolina had to rally from 18 down after halftime to beat UT Martin 60-58.

DeShields struggled to a 3-for-12 shooting day in that one, including going the first half without a basket before scoring 13 points during the game-turning run. She said her biggest takeaway from her first tournament game was simply “getting it out of the way” and overcoming her nerves.

She didn’t look nervous Tuesday night, finishing 9-for-17 from the field in 35 minutes. She also set the ACC single-season freshman scoring record, blowing past Georgia Tech’s Kaela Davis, who ended year with 594 points.

North Carolina shot 37 percent and cooled off after building its huge lead, while Michigan State finished the game shooting 32 percent.


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

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