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The Daily Tar Heel

Heels beat UVa. move on to UConn.

12:30 A.M.SATURDAY JAN. 17 -- It's official – the stage is set.

North Carolina defended its home court Friday night against No. 14 Virginia with a 103-74 victory. Next up is a battle of the top two teams in the country as No. 1 Connecticut comes to the Smith Center on Monday.

Against UVa. the Tar Heels took a 43-34 lead – their biggest of the game at that point – into halftime and put on the afterburners in the second period. UNC outscored Virginia 60-40 after halftime as Rashanda McCants hit a hot streak in the opening minutes of the second half.

The senior scored from all over the court with layups three-pointers and short jumpers racking up 16 of her 23 points after the break. But the offense came from up and down the roster" and McCants was one of five Tar Heels who finished the game in double figures.

""We started out like we always do – but we didn't have to (use) full-court press because they were gonna run with us" coach Sylvia Hatchell said. We knew when they started running with us" and they were actually getting some points off of it. (So) we just dropped back and concentrated on playing better halfcourt.""

The Cavaliers (14-3) kept the game tight in the opening minutes and lead by as much as six in a tumultuous first period. They shot more than 60 percent to start the game and had little trouble getting through the Tar Heels' full-court defense.

Those failed traps by No. 2 North Carolina (17-0) turned into easy shots for Virginia"" to the irritation of UNC's coaching staff. One layup off the dribble by Virginia's Ariana Moorer prompted associate head coach Andrew Calder to shout out ""You scared of her?"" as Hatchell berated her team to take a charge.

""They were just coming down the floor and taking it to the basket" Hatchell said. We weren't doing a really good job of containing them and we got messed up on some of our rotations" and even when we did match up they were coming out and pulling up shots.""

UNC trailed 18-22 with 11:16 left in the first half when freshman Laura Broomfield" fresh off the bench" hit a long baseline jumper. Heather Claytor followed that up with a trey to take the lead and the Tar Heels never let the Cavaliers get back into the game.

""Tonight we weren't down" but at the same time we never felt like we were up – at least I never felt that we were winning (by double digits)" McCants said.

The team maintained the intensity of the opening minutes through the full length of the game, which McCants credited to an inspiration visit in practice the week before from Lennie Rosenbluth.

Rosenbluth, the 1957 national player of the year and leading scorer on the men's undefeated championship team, was invited by Hatchell to talk to the team on teamwork and communication.

I really took notes on that"" McCants said.

Freshman center Chay Shegog was second in scoring behind McCants with 17 points. She capped off a career-high with a three-point play in the paint that pushed UNC over the 100-point mark for the fourth time this season.

With Virginia behind them, the Tar Heels were free to talk about the challenge ahead on their schedule. UNC and UConn., who are also the top two teams in the country in scoring offense, take the court at 7 p.m. Monday.

It's gonna be up and down" sophomore Italee Lucas said. They run we run" so I think it's gonna be a good matchup.""

UConn. routed Syracuse on Saturday"" meaning both teams will enter the matchup with identical 17-0 records.

""Now that we can talk about it and I'm not looking ahead" I think it's going to be a very competitive game McCants said. Everyone's been looking forward to this for a while" and I think it's going to be very fun to play. Very fun.""

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