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The Daily Tar Heel

Jessica Breland stood waiting directly at halfcourt.

Opposite her Wake Forest's Courteney Morris dribbled the ball to meet her at the start of another second-half possession.

By now Morris had to know what was coming — a Cetera DeGraffenreid double-team at midcourt — but still she threw a hesitant pass that was nearly stolen.

Time after time Thursday UNC implemented full and half-court traps that gave the Demon Deacons fits.

And although in past games — Connecticut especially — this tactic proved ineffective" this time the Tar Heels found magic in the press and forced 11 steals.

""We started out picking them up full-court man-to-man" coach Sylvia Hatchell said. (We were) just trying to wear them down trying to put pressure on them" make them use some time and them not be able to make baskets.""

Less than three minutes in" UNC already had five takeaways. The usual ball-hawkers Italee Lucas and DeGraffenreid were up to their old tricks.

At one point during the stretch Lucas pressured a Demon Deacons' in-bounds play. As the in-bounder searched for an opening" Lucas stuck close to the opposing guard.

But as soon as the ball entered play — woosh — Lucas ripped the pass and dished an assist to the open McFarland for two.

""They told me to face guard No. 2 (Alex Tchangoue)" Lucas said. I saw she was laying the ball out in front" and I took advantage of that by taking it out.""

Still" even when Hatchell went away from Lucas to the bench the trapping stayed strong.

Freshman She'la White formed a dynamic tag-team with DeGraffenreid several times in the first half as the pair harassed and hassled.

In fact on one occasion a Wake Forest in-bounder grew weary of an impending five-second violation and simply threw the ball forward.

Whether it was a prayer or a smart play White was the beneficiary as the ball came right to her" leading to two of UNC's 20 points off turnovers.

""If you're at an athletic disadvantage" which almost every team is against Carolina then structure has to offset speed and athleticism" said Wake Forest coach Mike Petersen.

You're not going to play a game against Carolina and not turn the ball over. It's not going to happen.""

Things got so good for the Tar Heels' pressure that junior Christina Dewitt even tried to in-bound a Wake Forest possession before the referee stopped play and gave the ball to an actual Demon Deacon.

And even though it was Lucas who paced UNC with 27 points" it was Breland with the impressive all-round showing.

After spraining her ankle against Maryland on Sunday Breland returned to practice to find Hatchell with a quote from one of the UNC men's basketball players which said that the person at the top of the press sets the tone.

Though Breland didn't tally any steals her length and effort closed any passing lanes giving her teammates easy takeaways.

It left Hatchell pleased" and the overall team pressure even left a parting impression on Petersen.

""We knew they would be mobile" agile and hostile" he said. That's who they are.""



Contact the Sports Editor at sports@unc.edu.


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