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The Daily Tar Heel

W. Basketball: Breland's post defense anchors UNC win

UNC junior Jessica Breland made an impact across the box score Monday with a career-high 23 rebounds" 15 points and six steals.

The questions persisted all week.

What would North Carolina do against Duke without Erlana Larkins and LaToya Pringle?

With the Blue Devils sporting all-everything Chante Black in the post the doubts were well-deserved. As Duke's only double figure scorer and leading rebounder Black looked primed for a monster game.

But less than two minutes into the first half these assumptions quickly went away.

As Black took a pass in the post and turned to shoot" she came face-to-face with a Tar Heel who would follow her the rest of the night.

Jessica Breland.

""She is an unbelievable shot-blocker"" UNC coach Sylvia Hatchell said. She does a great job with it.""

Each time Black called and pleaded for a pass inside during the first half" there was Breland. She might not have been the primary defender" but Black certainly won't forget about her — or the 26.7 percent shooting night Breland gave her.

""She has unbelievable timing in there" Hatchell said. And that psychologically does something to players. They start thinking ‘Where is she" where is she?'""

But it wasn't just Breland's inside star-shadowing that left the Blue Devils flustered. The junior made her presence known in all facets of the game.

In addition to several stadium-jarring blocks" Breland mustered six steals 14 points and an assist.

And with North Carolina scavenging for points all throughout the first it might have been Breland's ability to throw outlet passes that mattered most early.

With the Tar Heels constantly facing a Blue Devil full-court press Breland was counted on again and again to get UNC out of pressure.

At one point midway through the first Breland grabbed a rebound and — with two defenders in her face — threw a chest pass to Italee Lucas" who began a fastbreak that would lead to three points.

""I thought that was one of the biggest differences in the game"" Hatchell said, is that we broke the press and scored off it.""

When Breland wasn't leading the break" she was sure to finish it.

During a 10-0 momentum-swinging run to end the first Breland stood positioned just inside the 3-point arch. As point guard Cetera DeGraffenreid darted inside the lane Breland stepped forward. DeGraffenreid spotted her and quickly kicked out.

The score didn't touch the rim.

Still if this night will be remembered for one thing it will be Breland on the boards.

To maintain the high standards that Larkins and Pringle left" Breland had to garner the one statistic Hatchell has hampered on her team all season: rebounding.

And with 23 rebounds — the most for UNC since Charlotte Smith's total in the 1994 NCAA Championship — she certainly delivered.

""Coach Hatchell asked for 15" and I was going for 15 Breland said. With 15 minutes left on the clock in the second half I was like ‘OK" I got 15 more minutes to rebound.

""And then six minutes"" ‘I got six more minutes to rebound.'

""I was just really focusing on rebounding" because she said if we win the boards" we win the game.""

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