BOSTON (AP) — The ninth-ranked North Carolina women don't know when coach Sylvia Hatchell will return from her battle with leukemia. In the meantime, the Tar Heels, spurred by their courageous coach, continue to roll.
"She gave the team a little motivational talk as we got on the bus to come up here," acting head coach Andrew Calder said after Carolina cruised to a 71-56 victory over Boston College Sunday.
Hatchell, who has been out all season and had set a goal of returning by the ACC tournament, is reportedly in remission. She is currently hospitalized for treatment and her return, Calder said, depends on how many treatments she still must undergo.
"She's been in the office, she was all day in the office on Tuesday, she's been great," Calder said of Hatchell, who has 923 career wins. "She did speak to the girls on the bus - she gave a great motivational speech as she always does. She's an outstanding motivator."
Allisha Gray and Xylina McDaniel scored 16 points apiece and the Tar Heels (16-3, 4-1 ACC) shook off a slow start to lead by as many as 21 in the second half.
This is a young team, starting four freshmen and a McDaniel, a sophomore.
"I feel like we're playing at a high level. We're raising our basketball IQ," said Gray, who has had back-to-back 16 point games. "We're getting more experienced - more and more each game.
Freshman Diamond DeShields added 12 points as the Tar Heels won their fourth straight and 11th in their last 12.
DeShields, averaging 20.5 points per game in ACC play coming in but under the weather, had scored 70 points in the previous three games. She had 12 points early Sunday, then didn't score for the final 8:48 of the first half - and left the game after receiving a technical foul with 8:23 left and didn't return. Calder said it was a combination of her health and the technical - and the fact she wasn't really needed - that kept DeShields on the bench
She was 4 for 12 from the floor and had six turnovers.
Kelly Hughes led BC (11-8, 2-3) with 13 points, going 4-for-8 from 3-point range - as the Eagles lost for only the second time in 10 home games .
The Eagles have lost three of their last four and all three were against top 10 teams. BC lost at No. 2 Notre Dame and No. 3 Duke by a combined 63 points, but played the Tar Heels much tougher.
"The stretch doesn't get easier," said coach Erik Johnson, whose team also lost to No. 3 Stanford to open the season. "The ACC brings another great opponent, another great opponent. Now, not every week will we play three top 10 teams and two of them on their homecourt."
Kristen Doherty added 11 points and Katie Zenevitch 10 points in the loss.
The Eagles, third in the ACC in 3-point shooting coming in, went 1-for-10 from deep in the first half and finish 5-for-20. This is a team that needs to score from the outside, especially against a team that is more physical and talented.
"I want to say what a great job defensively that Coach Johnson did with Boston College," said Calder, whose team finished with 12 points under its season average. "I thought they gave us some problems."
The Tar Heels, who got a game-high eight rebounds from McDaniel, went 9 for 23 from 3-point range and 16 for 18 from the foul line.
It took North Carolina almost four minutes to score its first point, but BC wasn't able to take advantage of the scoring drought - the Eagles led 3-0 when the Tar Heels ran off seven straight points to take the lead for good.
Gray was scoreless until the final 4:11 of the half, hitting back-to-back 3-pointers and two more baskets for 10 points in a span of just less than three minutes.
The Eagles, down eight after 11:33, got the UNC lead down to two with 3:21 remaining in the half, but Gray's personal 7-0 run built the lead to nine and it was seven at the break.
North Carolina, which next plays at Wake Forest Thursday night, is 10-1 all-time against BC.
The Eagles are at North Carolina State Thursday night.