CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – Senior guard Candace Brown's layup beat the buzzer Friday afternoon, lifting Gardner-Webb to a 66-65 win at No. 20 North Carolina in both teams' season opener at Carmichael Auditorium.
Brown's heroics came after Jamie Cherry's three-pointer gave the Tar Heels (0-1) a 65-64 lead with eight seconds left. Veteran head coach Rick Reeves called a timeout with 7.1 seconds left and drew up a play for Brown, who delivered to cap a tremendous all-around game.
It was the first win over a top-25 team for Gardner-Webb (1-0) since its move to NCAA Division I prior to the 2000-2001 season. It was also the program's first win over a team from the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Gardner-Webb (1-0) led 25-24 at halftime, but saw North Carolina heat up in the third quarter – opening up a 51-36 lead when that period's buzzer sounded. Reeves' Runnin' Bulldogs had a run of their own in store, however, outscoring the Tar Heels 30-14 in the final 10 minutes to take the win.
Olivia Parker sandwiched five points around a Tierra Huntsman trey to spark an 8-0 run out of the third quarter break for Gardner-Webb and Kierra Currie nailed back-to-back three-pointers to cut the lead to 53-52 with 6:12 remaining in the game. That capped a 16-2 run that seized momentum for the visitors from Boiling Springs, N.C.
North Carolina got baskets from Erika Johnson and Stephanie Watts to pull out to a 58-54 lead, but Brown scored four in a row to tie the game at 58 with 4:02 remaining. Currie connected on a jumper with 3:05 left for a 60-58 Gardner-Webb lead – before Cherry responded with back-to-back jump shots of her own to give the Tar Heels a 62-60 edge with 2:14 on the clock.
Parker made a free throw with 1:55 left to pull Gardner-Webb within one and Alexus Hill made two charity shots with 50 seconds left for a 63-62 lead that would stand until Cherry's long three-point make.
Both teams struggled to score early in the game, with North Carolina taking a 12-10 lead after the first 10 minutes. Gardner-Webb took the lead in the second quarter on a Parker three ball with 3:32 to play before halftime and extended the lead to 25-21 on a Brown basket with 1:42 on the clock.
The Runnin' Bulldogs – who made an NCAA Tournament appearance in 2011 – shot 38 percent for the game (24-of-63) and held a 42-41 edge on the backboards.
Brown, a native of Hinton, WVa., was outstanding throughout, finishing with a team-high 17 points to go with five rebounds, two assists and a pair of blocked shots. Hill added 14 points and Parker (Charlotte, N.C./Providence Day) posted a double-double with 11 points and 11 rebounds. The power forward made two of Gardner-Webb's eight three-point baskets and also pilfered three steals.
Huntsman totaled 10 points and seven assists from her point guard spot, knocking down half of her four three-point attempts. Currie came off the bench to finish with eight points and three rebounds. GWU pressured North Carolina into 19 turnovers and turned those miscues into 13 points.
Cherry led North Carolina with a game-high 25 points, Hillary Summers added 13, Destinee Walker had 11 and Watts scored 10 before fouling out. The Tar Heels shot 38.5 percent for the game (25-of-65), but made just 5-of-21 (23.8 percent) from long range.