Wright's four free throws clinch UNC's 66-63 win over Maryland Successful homecoming for ex-Western player

January 22, 1996|By Milton Kent | Milton Kent,SUN STAFF

COLLEGE PARK -- With 1:30 gone in the second half, North Carolina freshman Chanel Wright slumped to the bench, her face contorted nearly to the point of tears.

For this game of all games, Wright, a two-time Baltimore Sun Player of the Year during her days at Western, wanted to be at her best, what with her own rooting section sitting behind the Tar Heels bench.

At that stage of the contest, with no points to show for her efforts, it looked like it would be a long night.

But basketball can be a forgiving game, and Wright found a form of redemption with four clutch free throws in the final two minutes, including two with 4.8 seconds left, as North Carolina (10-5, 5-1 in the Atlantic Coast Conference) held off a persistent Maryland team and escaped with a 66-63 victory at Cole Field House last night.

Wright finished with 13 points, including 7-for-7 on free throws, to make her first trip home as a collegian a success.

"It was kind of hard playing in front of the fans that I had played before in high school. I wanted to come out and play well. I guess I was too pumped," said Wright.

The Terps, trailing by nine with 4:21 to go, pieced together an impressive comeback to draw within one in the final minute, with three chances to either tie the game or go ahead.

The final Maryland opportunity was the most heartbreaking as junior guard Lillian Purvis -- a North Carolina native -- was fouled shooting a three-pointer with 6.5 seconds left.

Purvis, who scored a career-high 23 points, hit the first shot, missed the second off the back of the rim, then hit the third to make it a one-point game, setting the stage for Wright to make her free throws.

"Since I hadn't played well before, I figured the least I could do was hit those free throws to help us win," said Wright, who was last week's ACC Rookie of the Week.

"Chanel has the best free throw percentage on the team [69 percent]. That's why we had her in there," said North Carolina coach Sylvia Hatchell.

"I have to give Breezy Bishop [coach at Western] all the credit, because Chanel has what we call basketball sense. She has more basketball knowledge than most freshmen. I don't hesitate to have her in there, because she plays so well.

"If there's one thing that's a negative, it's that she puts too much pressure on herself."

When the Terps (8-7, 2-3) -- who meet conference co-leader Virginia on Wednesday -- watch the game films, they'll see a host of blown opportunities beyond Purvis' free throws.

Maryland, with a good defensive scheme, forced 27 North Carolina turnovers but shot just 38 percent from the floor.

The Terps have dropped five straight to the Tar Heels.

"We cannot wait until the end of the game to start turning it on," said Maryland coach Chris Weller. "Valiant comebacks always make me wonder why you cannot be valiant before then."

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