COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Deja Kelly had a go-ahead three-point play with 2 seconds left and No. 6 seed North Carolina hung on for a 61-59 win over 11th-seeded St. John’s in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Saturday.
The Tar Heels faced their first deficit of the game when Danielle Patterson sank a 3-pointer with 6:39 left to play.
The Red Storm led for the next four-plus minutes until Paulina Paris was fouled in transition and made the ensuing free throw to tie the game at 54.
The score tied twice in the final minute as Mimi Reid made a layup with 6 seconds left to knot the game at 58.
Kelly drove the left lane and made the free throw to complete the game-winning score. Patterson then was fouled after a timeout shooting a 3-pointer with just over a second left that gave the Red Storm one last chance.
She missed the first two free throws and then inexplicably made third one ending any chance the Red Storm had to tie the game.
Kelly led North Carolina with 18 points on 7-of-16 shooting, Kennedy Todd-Williams finished with 14 points and Alyssa Ustby totaled 13. The Tar Heels shot 42.1% from the field.
St. John’s began 1-of-14 from the field. The Red Storm trailed 12-3 but Jayla Everett scored five of her team-leading 17 points during a 7-0 run that brought them back late in the first quarter.
Patterson finished with 13 points and Reid had 10.
St. John’s: The season ends for the Red Storm, who got off to the best start in program history under Big East Coach of the Year Joe Tartamella by winning the first 13 games of the season.
North Carolina: The Tar Heels allowed St. John’s to shoot 38% although the Red Storm shot 57.9% in the second half. North Carolina has held opponents to 41.2% shooting or worse in four straight games.
North Carolina will play No. 3 Ohio State on Monday.