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The Daily Tar Heel

Baptist Rebounds to Help Seal Victory

Chrystal Baptist's put-back with 17.2 seconds left in Monday's game helped UNC move to the NCAA's Sweet 16.

She wasn't paying much attention to Nikki Teasley, who was holding the ball and working the shot clock with less than 30 seconds left in the second half of Monday's second-round NCAA Tournament game at Carmichael Auditorium.

And she was doing exactly what UNC coach Sylvia Hatchell wanted her to do.

Hatchell wanted Teasley isolated against her defender to get the best possible shot with the Tar Heels holding onto a precarious 70-69 lead.

"Most teams in that situation focus on the point guard," Baptist said. "My job was to make sure my man focused on me and didn't double-team Nikki. Coach told me to just run around in circles."

The plan worked to perfection as Teasley drove past the Gopher guarding her. But her soft floater bounced long off the rim.

Baptist circled around her defender, who also wasn't paying much attention to Teasley, and was in perfect position to put back the miss with 17.2 seconds left to give UNC its final 72-69 margin of victory.

"She made a big shot, the game-winner in my opinion," said Teasley of Baptist, who recorded her seventh double-double of the season with 12 points and 10 rebounds.

And no points or rebound were bigger than that late combo, which helped North Carolina to the Sweet 16 for the eighth time in 10 years.

"She was big, she had a double-double tonight," Hatchell said. "In the last few timeouts, I told her 'Chrystal, get the rebounds, just get rebounds.'"

Again, Baptist did as told, collecting five of her 10 boards in the last six minutes of the game.

This season has been one of transition and frustration for Baptist. A starter early on, she led the ACC in rebounding at one point.

But needing more strength inside, Hatchell inserted Jennifer Thomas into the power forward position, and Baptist was forced into a reserve role.

Baptist at first struggled with the change, and her playing time decreased. But as the season progressed, she settled into her new position.

"When coach puts me in the game, she expects me to produce," Baptist said. "Whether it's scoring, rebounding or locking down on defense, she expects me to do something.

"When I'm out there, I can float around and get open shots. Not many teams have been able to handle that."

Teasley said she's proud of the way Baptist has adjusted to her new role, and that her importance will increase as the Tar Heels make their way to Ames, Iowa, for the next round of the tournament.

"In the beginning of the season, we were kind of looking for our dominant four position," Teasley said. "And the coaches did a great job of moving Jennifer there. Chrystal rolled with it, and now she's doing a great job."

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

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