When UT Martin's Jasmine Newsome, who along with teammate Heather Butler entered the game as two of the four active leading scorers in all of NCAA Division I basketball, converted a Shoni Schimmel-esque three-point play with three seconds left in the first half, the Tar Heels looked lost, unsure what was happening and unable to counter.
"We were just going to continue what we were doing because that was the game plan," Newsome said. "To get them frustrated and get them to stand around on offense, which they did the majority of the game."
Never afraid to speak her mind, DeShields admitted after the game that she felt she and the team "weren't mentally prepared" for the game, the first NCAA tournament game for three regular starters and a key reserve (DeShields wasn't in the starting lineup because of a team rule related to the technical foul she picked up in the ACC final).
"It did feel kind of off because this is like a surreal experience for me," DeShields said. "You dream about playing in the NCAA tournament, and now it's like I'm here. So I was really trying to calm my nerves before the game and not let them get the best of me. So when I took the floor, I kind of was like, 'Is this real?' ...
"I had to just realize it was another game and play it like that and be Diamond. In the first half, I wasn't Diamond. In the second half, I found myself again, went back to my old self and things started happening."
There was nothing fancy about how North Carolina erased what grew to an 18-point deficit with little more than 10 minutes to play. It was blunt instrument basketball, offensive rebounds, tempo and smothering defensive pressure fueling a 28-8 run to close the game. DeShields made only three shots in the game, but two of them were of the sort that she and few other players can make. She also drew the most important, and controversial, call of the game when UT Martin's Tiara Caldwell was called for a flagrant foul after officials reviewed an elbow that caught DeShields as she entered the lane to try to rebound a free throw attempt. DeShields' free throws essentially made it a four-point possession for the Tar Heels and came near the start of a 15-0 mini-run for her team.
This might just be North Carolina coach Andrew Calder's lot in life. He said there was no clue beforehand that the Tar Heels were anything other than ready for the moment. But as in losses in the regular season against the likes of Virginia Tech and Miami, they came out with something less than the energy and focus they brought to stages like a pair of wins against Duke, or wins against Maryland in the ACC tournament and South Carolina on a neutral court. McDaniel after the game said they don't know why the start slowly sometimes. They just do. That doesn't work in March.
"I think they learned a lot today," Calder said. "The whole team learned a lot today. That we can come back when we're down but that we have to continue to do the fundamental things so that we don't get ourselves in that position."