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The Daily Tar Heel

Tar Heels Pick Off Premier Players

"I was sitting there thinking 'Oh God, college is the next level. What's the difference between college and high school,'" Atkinson said. "But when I stepped out on the court, I could tell there's a big difference."

Atkinson was a part of that difference Sunday afternoon, notching 12 points in the Tar Heels' 87-74 preseason win against the Premier Players at Carmichael Auditorium.

The Tar Heels were slow to put points on the board, missing their first two shots of the game, while the Premier Players sank two three-pointers within the first two minutes of the game.

Coretta Brown quickly remedied the situation in the second minute of the game, notching her own three-pointer.

But as the Tar Heel continued to take shots that weren't falling, the Premier Players continued to increase their margin.

UNC finally broke even in the eighth minute of play, knotting the score at 16-16 after Atkinson drove the lane.

Her score was part of a nine-point run for UNC, which ended with a Chrystal Baptist bucket less than 20 seconds later.

"We just missed a lot of easy shots," said junior center Candace Sutton. "We rushed a lot of things, and I think from the defensive end we didn't get back in transition as well as we should."

The drought continued for the Tar Heels, putting the team in danger of going down into the second half, but a shot from Jennifer Thomas kept UNC on par with the Premier Players.

Thomas rebounded a missed shot and put it back for two points, again tying up the score, this time at 41.

UNC exploded out of the gate in the second half, with Thomas striking again with a bucket that put North Carolina ahead. UNC did not relinquish the lead for the remaining 18 minutes of the game.

North Carolina was led by Sutton, who had 20 points, and by sophomore guard Nikita Bell who had 12 of UNC's 58 rebounds.

The match, which was the Tar Heels' first exhibition game, brought back familiar faces to Carmichael's floor, such as Nikki Teasley and Juana Brown.

"It seemed a little strange to come back," Teasley said. "But I love to play. Playing is always fun for me. It felt good to actually play organized basketball again. ... I play everyday pickup basketball but this is the first organized basketball I've played since I left WNBA."

Brown, who contributed to UNC's win with 11 points and two assists, said she was excited at the chance to play Teasley and former UNC player Juana Brown.

"It was almost like practice; that's what it was like for me because I know what (they're) capabable of," Coretta Brown said.

Teasley and her teammates will travel to N.C. State and Duke this week before ending out their short season.

UNC coach Sylvia Hatchell said the game would help the team find its starting five. A different five will start in Wednesday's exhibition game against the Athletes In Action.

"It gave us a chance to see in a game situation who could do what," Hatchell said. "It helps us to analyze and also we're still moving some people to some different positions.

"We're still trying to find the best place for La'Tangela. ... She's really good at driving, although she didn't drive near as much today as I wanted her to. She'll get more aggressive as we move along too."

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