Jordan Lewis had a career-high 32 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists to help seventh-seeded Alabama beat No. 10 seed North Carolina 80-71 on Monday in the first round of the women’s NCAA Tournament.
It was a triumphant return to the NCAAs for the Crimson Tide (17-9), who were playing their first game in the tournament since 1999. The Crimson Tide made eight straight trips to the NCAAs from 1992-99 that included a run to the Final Four in 1994.
Alabama built a 29-19 lead midway through the second quarter behind Lewis before the Tar Heels (13-11) cut it to 31-29 with 3:09 left before the half. The Crimson Tide responded scoring 10 of the next 12 points to take a 41-31 lead at the break. Lewis had five points during the closing burst and finished the first half with 18.
North Carolina trailed by 10 going into the fourth quarter before cutting it to 65-60 on a 3-pointer by Stephanie Watts with 6:46 left. Ariyah Copeland had a three-point play on the other end to start a 11-2 run and put the game away.
Watts led the Tar Heels with a season-high 29 points, hitting seven 3-pointers.
Lewis finished short of the school record of 33 points in an NCAA game set by Yolanda Watkins against Duke in 1995 in a quadruple-overtime game.
The senior guard also moved into fourth on the school’s all-time assists list with 509, passing Shelly Pyles (1984-88).
North Carolina coach Courtney Banghart has a lot to look forward to with the freshmen class accounting for nearly 44% of the points and 50% of the assists this season while playing half the minutes.
Alabama coach Kristy Curry has now taken three different teams to the NCAAs after leading Purdue (2000-06) and Texas Tech (2011, 13) into the tournament
Alabama faces the winner of the Maryland-Mount St. Mary’s game on Wednesday in the second round.