Another gem for UNC's DeShields

It can be too much at times, as it was when she drew a technical for taunting in the ACC tournament, a call that forced her to come off the bench in Sunday's first-round game because of a team rule relating to technicals. She had plenty of stares for the Spartans on Tuesday, and perhaps a few carefully considered words, the product of a perceived verbal slight from the Spartans after the first round that she referenced but on the specifics of which she wouldn't elaborate.

And yet she manages to pull it off most of the time, finding that delicate balance between charm and arrogance. The confidence is real, the swagger seems an act.

It doesn't hurt that she can put her jump shot where her mouth is.

The Big Ten was home this season to three of the nation's most prolific scorers. Minnesota's Rachel Banham, Nebraska's Jordan Hooper and Penn State's Maggie Lucas all averaged better than 20 points per game. Asked where guarding DeShields fit in the context of players like that, Michigan State's coach shook her head.

"It's not even close," Merchant said. "When she's what she was tonight, you can't stop her. I mean, her elevation on her jumper -- I don't think Madison Williams at 6-foot-7, if she was 100 percent healthy, could get to that shot. It's impressive."

For all that it is, North Carolina is still a work in progress when it comes to putting teams away. By halftime Tuesday, Michigan State had wriggled its way back within nine points, still on the decidedly short end of the stick but not out of the contest. A few stops early in the second half and the Tar Heels might be right back on the hot seat they survived Sunday. Merchant came out of the locker room intent on slowing DeShields.

On the first possession of the half, Michigan State threw a junk defense at DeShields. When she caught the ball at the top of the key, Klarissa Bell, one of the Big Ten's best defenders, and Annalise Pickrel, a long-armed nuisance, jumped out to trap her. DeShields slid by both of them on the right side, pulled up and elevated for a long jumper. Of course it dropped through the net, pushing her total to 18 points for the game.

Later in the half, she gave Bell a quick pump fake that would have left a lesser defender grasping at air. Bell didn't bite. Unbothered, DeShields simply took another dribble to her right and dropped in a step-back jumper. She had plenty of help on both ends of the court during a second half run that buried the Spartans, who were flattered by a misleading final score. But she was in command.

"Her speed, her quickness, her elevation -- when she decides to play, she's one of the best I've been against," Merchant said.

That's the mix. She wins basketball games and puts on a show along the way. As long as it is in that order, it's hard to complain. It has been that way since she was in high school. When there were enough people in the stands that she started to notice the gasps and oohs and aahs that accompanied her movements. She became part conductor, able to command that response.

"That's normal for me, but I understand a lot of people aren't physically capable of doing what I do," DeShields said of the reaction her play drew in high school. "And so I just kind of used that to get the crowd involved, knowing that I'm capable of doing something some people haven't seen before for a female."

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