The Daily Tar Heel

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Thursday January 20th

Women's Basketball Faces Tough Challenge

The Tar Heels tip off against No. 1 Connecticut at 7 p.m. Thursday for the third round of 2001 Preseason WNIT.

Teasley, a North Carolina guard, faced a daunting challenge as a freshman: playing at women's basketball mecca No. 1 Tennessee in the NCAA tournament.

The freshman learned the lesson of maintaining composure in a hostile environment that ended with a close 76-70 loss to end the Tar Heels' 1997-98 season.

Thursday night, UNC faces another No. 1, Connecticut, in another raucous arena -- Gampel Pavilion -- in the third round of the 2001 Preseason Women's National Invitational Tournament.

As North Carolina's only senior, Teasley provided advice to the freshmen that then-senior Tracey Reid once had given to her.

"I was definitely nervous," Teasley said of playing Tennessee. "I know Connecticut has a lot of fans. It's definitely frustrating -- you can't hear the coaches. I was telling (the team) to stay focused and concentrate."

Concentration, however, is only the first step toward stopping the Huskies. UConn presents the Tar Heels with a lively starting five that are quick on the floor and extremely active on the boards.

UConn's offense is powered by a talented frontline of 6-foot-2 Tamika Williams, who has averaged 17.5 points and 8.0 rebounds in two early-season wins, and two other 6-2 forwards.

"They are very athletic," said UNC coach Sylvia Hatchell. "We are the underdogs going up there. All it can be for us is a win-win situation. This game's not going to do anything but help us."

The player assigned to stop the Huskies inside is the Tar Heels'

6-6 center Candace Sutton.

Sutton will have to maintain her poise down low, because frontcourt teammate Chrystal Baptist is questionable with an ankle injury.

"I think we match up with them well," Sutton said. "We are quicker than we have been in previous years. It's just a matter of going up there and playing hard."

In the backcourt, UNC's three-guard set of Teasley, Coretta Brown and Leah Metcalf faces the other tough assignment. The trio must contain UConn's Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi, who have combined to average 34.5 points this season.

But the Tar Heels are confident their perimeter players will cause matchup problems for UConn, rather than vice versa.

"I like it, because I'm not handling the ball all the time, getting pressured," Metcalf said. "We've got another guard in case they try to pressure me. I get to shoot more."

Teasley played the No. 1 before and lost. But she, like the team, is confident.

"This is something I've been waiting for since the Tennessee game my freshman year," Teasley said. "That one got away from us, I don't plan on letting this one get away from us."

The Sports Editor can be reached at sports @unc.edu.

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