CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Fifth-year senior Leigha Brown had 25 points and eight rebounds, and 19th-ranked Michigan knocked off No. 6 North Carolina 76-68 on Tuesday night at the inaugural Jumpman Invitational.
The 6-foot-1 Brown was 9 of 15 from the field and made three 3-pointers in her 113th career game for the Wolverines.
“The bigger the stage, the better she is,” said Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico. “She gets fired up for opportunities like this.”
Laila Phelia added 20 points for Michigan (11-1), which jumped out to a 23-point second quarter lead and shot 47% from the field for the game while holding North Carolina to 32%.
The two-day event at the Spectrum Center features both the men’s and women’s teams from the original four schools to sign partnership deals with Jordan Brand in both basketball and football: Florida, Michigan, North Carolina and Oklahoma.
Michigan shot 64% from the field to build a 47-24 advantage as Brown had a run of 18 points on 6-of-7 shooting and knocked down three 3-pointers.
She had only two 3s coming into the game, and the Tar Heels purposely lagged off her because of her ability to drive.
“The first 3 I had I noticed they were going way under on the ball screens, so I said let’s see what happens,” Brown said. “I had to make them guard me somehow, so luckily I was able to hit a few of them and that opened up a lot of things.”
Deja Kelly had 15 points and Eva Hodgson had 13 for North Carolina (9-2), which couldn’t complete the comeback despite a strong defensive effort in the second half. Alyssa Ustby had 11 points and 11 rebounds for UNC.
Using a half-court trap, the Tar Heels eventually trimmed Michigan’s lead to eight with 4 1/2 minutes to play with Kelly stripping Brown at half court and scoring on an easy layup. But Brown answered with a jumper and the Tar Heels couldn’t cut the lead to single digits until 20 seconds remained.
“We have to take that step forward and figure out a way to punch first,” Kelly said. “Because we have been getting punched first.”
Added Hodgson: “We have to have that sense of urgency.”
It was North Carolina’s fourth game this season against a ranked opponent and coach Courtney Banghart said her team may have struggled handling success after reaching No. 6 in the nation.
“It’s a really different mindset to go from hunting, which we did all year, to being hunted,” Banghart said. “Clearly my group is still figuring that out.”
Barnes Arico said her team was coming off a great week of practice and was pumped to play in an NBA arena. She said the Jordan Brand gear the players received from playing in the event only served as motivation.
“Look good, feel good, right?” Barnes Arico joked.
IN THE CROWD
Hall of Fame college basketball coach Roy Williams was seated courtside in his Tar Heels gear. NBA star Carmelo Anthony was also on hand, as was former Carolina Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis.
Michigan: This is a potent offensive team. The first quarter was particularly impressive with the Wolverines playing near flawless basketball, scoring 35 points on 75% shooting while committing just one turnover. Their only loss of the season was to unranked Toledo on Dec. 8.
North Carolina: The Tar Heels had scored 99 and 89 points in their previous two games but struggled to put the ball in the net in the first half. UNC’s only other loss of the season came against No. 4 Indiana on Dec. 1.
Michigan: Visits Nebraska on Dec. 28.
North Carolina: Hosts Florida State on Dec. 29.