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The Daily Tar Heel

W. Basketball: Rebounding key in Tar Heel win

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Senior forward Rashanda McCants found her shot in a win against the Hokies and led the team with 23 points and six boards in 25 minutes.

The word — a simple instruction — has been echoing in their ears for days"" and Thursday the Tar Heels heard it again as they dashed back up the court.

""Rebound! Rebound! Rebound!"" coach Sylvia Hatchell barked.

Fortunately for her sanity" her team has been listening.

On a night when both teams played some of their sloppiest basketball of the season — both teams had double-digit turnover marks only 15 minutes into the game — the rebounding margin was the difference in North Carolina's 93-77 win against Virginia Tech.

Virginia Tech was held to only nine rebounds in the first half while the Tar Heels controlled the glass so well in that period that the Hokies didn't grab a single offensive rebound on 16 missed shots.

The final margin was 38-25 in favor of UNC (20-3 5-2 ACC). Eleven of the rebounds were supplied by Jessica Breland" who said the word is firmly ingrained in her mind.

""I actually kind of dream about it. I'll be twitching and jumping and stuff" 'cause I'll be thinking about rebounding when I'm sleeping" Breland said.

No. 8 UNC took the lead early with an 8-0 run in the opening two minutes, but Virginia Tech (11-12, 1-7 ACC) warmed up and resisted letting the Tar Heels run away with it.

The first 10-point lead for the Tar Heels came off a 3-pointer from Heather Claytor that made the score 29-19 with 7:44 remaining in the first half.

But it lasted only 16 seconds, as the Hokies drove right back for a quick layup.

Traveling calls on the next two possessions kept the Tar Heels from taking control of the game, and Virginia Tech cut the lead to 29-23.

A few minutes later, Italee Lucas got the Tar Heels off and running.

After a Virginia Tech layup made it 35-25, the guard converted on a baseline drive and followed it up with a cross-court pass to Rashanda McCants for a 3-pointer.

She followed that up later with an assist to Breland and back-to-back three pointers to cap off the 13-5 run.

That's the kind of player I knew she could be when she came to school here"" Hatchell said.

Lucas finished with 18 points and four steals and helped establish the Tar Heels' outside presence with four 3-pointers in her third-straight game.

But Lucas also had five turnovers on the night — second only to Breland's six — and the Tar Heels finished with 26, their third-straight game with at least 20.

The Hokies turned on full-court pressure midway through the second half to prevent UNC from holding on to their lead by slowing the game down.

It didn't make much difference, since the Tar Heels were taking the ball to the hoop quickly anyway, and the Hokies couldn't cut the lead to single digits in the closing half.

Virginia Tech whittled away the lead to a 13-point margin three times in the second half, though that was partly due to the Tar Heels going cold for a four-minute stretch.

At the end of the game, North Carolina finished shooting 57 percent, allowing a 49 percent performance from the Hokies — the final margin came down to the boards.

Hatchell has been so fanatical about attacking the glass that she put signs that say Rebound"" above some of her players' beds.

With a matchup against No. 4 Duke on Monday — one thing they don't need any reminder about — the signs will stay up.

""There's a little one by my mirror" too" Breland said.

And I'm not gonna touch it.""



Contact the Sports Editor at sports@unc.edu.


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