At first, it seemed as if Ohio State was in for a long night.

But somewhere in the midst of a wild first quarter, OSU found its footing. Led by Carmen Grande’s season-high 23 points and Dorka Juhasz’s double-double, the Buckeyes climbed out of a double-digit deficit to win 76-69 over North Carolina in front of 4,997 Thursday night at Value City Arena in an ACC/Big Ten Challenge game.

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North Carolina (5-3) ran out to a 16-2 lead just 3½ minutes into the game. The Buckeyes defense struggled to close to shooters around the perimeter and in the lane, and their offense lacked aggressiveness after an 18-day layoff courtesy of canceled games at Sacramento State and Stanford.

“It showed,” Ohio State coach Kevin McGuff said. “When the ball got tipped, it looked like we’d been off for 18 days. … That layoff, it was catching up to us. We looked out of sync and out of rhythm. We were a little timid. We got some shots around the basket that we didn’t really go up aggressively for.”

After a timeout to get his squad settled down, McGuff watched the Buckeyes’ defense lock the Tar Heels down while the offense bounced back and pieced together a 16-5 run to end the first quarter.

It was back-and-forth from that point, with neither team gaining a significant advantage through halftime when Ohio State (2-2) entered the break down 33-29.

Ohio State took its first lead on a 10-3 run to begin the second half. When North Carolina threw in a full-court press to stymie the momentum, the Buckeyes carved through the defense fluidly for quick transition buckets. Toward the end of the third period, Ohio State took a 51-49 lead on a three-pointer by Janai Crooms.

It was a lead the Buckeyes wouldn’t give up.

Grande finished 7 of 15 from the field and 3 of 6 on three-pointers. She added eight rebounds and six assists after averaging 2.0 points through the first three games.

“It was a bit of an anomaly the way she started,” McGuff said. “She is starting to feel her way through the new system. She is such a conscientious kid and is so concerned about making everybody else better. She was a little more aggressive for herself, and she hadn’t done that yet. I thought that was really big for us.”

Juhasz finished with 18 points and 16 rebounds. It was her third double-double in four games.

“I definitely feel like this was my best game so far,” she said. “But I’ just doing my job, and that’s always my thing.”

Stephanie Watts led five Tar Heels in double figures with 15 points.

Ohio State returns to action Sunday at home against Cincinnati.

jfriesen@dispatch.com