CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — Stuck in a tight game against a winless opponent, North Carolina needed a spark. Krista Gross provided it.
Gross scored 12 of her 14 points in the second half to help the No. 18 Tar Heels beat East Tennessee State 93-77 Sunday.
“We needed something, and I just got in the right position and the opportunity presented itself,” Gross said. “I got a chance to help us with that and get it going. We really just needed something.”
Chay Shegog tied a career-high with 26 points and grabbed 12 rebounds for North Carolina (7-1), which improved to 4-0 against teams from the Atlantic Sun Conference.
Freshman Danielle Butts had a season-high 17 points for the Tar Heels, who finished with a 21-0 advantage on fastbreak points. Brittany Rountree scored 14 points and She’la White had 12 points for North Carolina.
“We just were very lackluster out there at times today,” North Carolina coach Sylvia Hatchell said. “We started the game off like that, and that sort of was our mentality until the second half. Then we picked it up a little bit more.”
Shawn Randall scored 16 points to lead the Buccaneers (0-10), who made a season-high nine 3-pointers on 32 attempts. Destiny Mitchell added 13 points for ETSU.
Carolina snapped a 47-47 tie early in the second half with an 8-0 run. Gross capped the spurt with a 3-point play and a 3-pointer on back-to-back possessions.
The Tar Heels blew the game open with a 13-0 run that put them ahead 78-60 with less than eight minutes to play. Shegog and Gross scored all the points during that stretch as North Carolina asserted its dominance against the smaller Buccaneers.
“After a while, 6-5 and 6-3 (players) will wear you down,” ETSU coach Karen Kemp said. “That was the case on the inside, and they were able to get a lot of easy baskets down around the block area.”
ETSU trailed just 39-35 at halftime after surviving first-half runs of 10-0 and 14-2 by North Carolina.
The Buccaneers scored the first five points of the second half to take a 40-39 lead after a 3-pointer by Tarita Gordon.
“I was really proud of the way my young ladies fought,” Kemp said. “I thought they fought hard for 40 minutes. Carolina is Carolina. . I know they’re a little banged up right now and not at full strength with everyone, but I was still proud of our overall effort.”
North Carolina played without leading rebounder Laura Broomfield, who sat out for the third time in four games because of a stress reaction in her left foot.
The Tar Heels declined to use Broomfield’s absence as an excuse after they got out-rebounded 50-45, the first time all season an opponent had beaten them on the boards.