Continuing today and concluding on July 18, GoHeels.com will count down the top 25 games of the 2013-14 academic year. To catch up on the previous entries, click here.
No. 3: Carolina 65, South Carolina 58 - Women's Basketball, March 30, 2014
North Carolina's Sylvia Hatchell and South Carolina's Dawn Staley were classmates in the 2013 Naismith Hall of Fame induction. The two competed against one another as coach vs. player during Staley's time at Virginia, and they resumed that competition - both on the court and on the recruiting trail - when Staley took over for the Gamecocks in 2008.
The emergence of South Carolina as a contenter in the SEC under Staley has turned the rivalry between Carolina and the Gamecocks into one of the hottest in women's basketball in recent seasons. Carolina had won four straight against its border neighbor before a 31-point setback in 2012. The Tar Heels avenged that loss with an 8-point win in Myrtle Beach prior to the semester break, but the stakes were much higher when the two teams met in Stanford in late March.
Carolina's path to the Sweet 16 showdown was an emotional one, as the Tar Heels had been forced to play without their Hall of Fame mentor as she battled cancer. They had experienced dizzying highs and humbling lows during the regular season and the ACC Tournament, entering NCAA play as a No. 4 seed in the Stanford Region.
For South Carolina, it was a season in which they'd make a big leap forward on the national stage. The Gamecocks were 29-4 after winning the SEC regular season title for the first time in program history, and they were the region's top seed.
On the line was a trip to the Elite Eight, a place Carolina hadn't been since going four consecutive times from 2005 to 2008. South Carolina was looking for its second trip to the regional finals, a round the Gamecocks hadn't seen since 2002.
The Tar Heels set the tone early, as Allisha Gray drained a 3 on the first possession of the game and Stephanie Mavunga made it 5-0 with a layup just 71 seconds in. A Diamond DeShields 3-point play stretched the lead to 10 at the under-8 timeout, and it would swell to 12 with Latifah Coleman's shot from beyond the arc. The Carolina defense harassed USC into a 9-for-27 performance from the field in the first half, and UNC led by eight at the break.
South Carolina's big run came early in the second half, as the Gamecocks went on a 10-2 run over a 2-minute stretch to pull within three at 35-32 and force interim head coach Andrew Calder to call a timeout.
The timeout stabilized the Tar Heels, who maintained a slim lead thanks in large part to an inspired stretch from Danielle Butts. Butts entered at the 14:42 mark and contributed four points and three rebounds over the next 2:30.
But South Carolina kept coming, and an Alaina Coates layup cut the Gamecock deficit to one - 43-42 - with 8:46 left in the game. After the under-8 media timeout, Jessica Washington knocked down a big 3 to push the lead back to four before DeShields connected from deep to make it a 49-44 game.
Still, it was just a two-point UNC lead when the Tar Heels finally put South Carolina away for good.
Leading 53-51, Mavunga cleaned up her own miss before a Coleman free throw stretched the advantage to five. With 2:40 to go, a streaking Coleman found Mavunga on the block for the back-breaking 3-point play, the freshman post coolly finishing at the line after a hard foul.
The Gamecocks would get within three in the final two minutes, but Brittany Rountree drained five free throws in the final 1:14. Columbia native Xylina McDaniel, who struggled from the field all night but did yoeman's work on the defensive end, stole the ball from Tiffany Mitchell on South Carolina's final possession and UNC dribbled out the clock.
It was an all-around team effort for Carolina, which saw eight players log at least 16 minutes but none more than 32. DeShields played through significant pain en route to a team-high 19 points, while Mavunga just missed a double-double with 13 and nine boards.
UNC's incredible run ended two nights later in a heartbreaker to the host Cardinal, but with four starters and a Hall of Fame coach returning in 2014-15, the future is bright in Chapel Hill. And with a second win in as many tries over the Gamecocks, the Tar Heels restored order to the border rivalry.
No. 6: Carolina 4, Georgia 2 - Men's Tennis, May 16, 2014
No. 7: Carolina 4, NC State 3 - Baseball, May 20, 2014
No. 8: Carolina 85, NC State 84 (OT) - Men's Basketball, Feb. 26, 2014
No. 9: Carolina 27, NC State 19 - Football, Nov. 2, 2013
No. 10: Carolina 3, Duke 0 - Women's Soccer, Oct. 31, 2013
No. 11: Carolina Completes Road Sweep Of Duke And NC State - Women's Basketball, Feb. 10 and 16, 2014
No. 12: Carolina 11, Maryland 8 - Men's Lacrosse, March 22, 2014
No. 13: Carolina 4, Virginia 2 - Baseball, April 20, 2014
No. 14: Carolina 4, Duke 1 - Men's Tennis, April 26, 2014
No. 15: Carolina 1, Virginia 0 - Men's Soccer, Nov. 1, 2013
No. 16: Carolina 45, Virginia 14 - Football, Nov. 9, 2013
No. 17: Carolina 17, Maryland 15 - Women's Lacrosse, April 5, 2014
No. 18: Carolina 2, Connecticut 1 - Field Hockey, Oct. 26, 2013
No. 19: Henderson's All-America Run At NCAAs - Wrestling, March 20-22, 2014
No. 20: Carolina 5, Virginia 2 - Women's Tennis, March 8, 2014
No. 21: Carolina 3, Illinois 0 - Volleyball, Sept. 20, 2013
No. 22: Carolina 93, Louisville 84 - Men's Basketball, Nov. 24, 2013
No. 23: Carolina Men, LeHardy Shine At XC Nationals - Cross Country, Nov. 23, 2013
No. 24: Carolina Sweeps Rivals To End Home Schedule - Men's Swimming and Diving, Jan. 25 and 31, 2014
No. 25: Carolina 12, Virginia Tech 8 - Softball, March 2, 2014