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The Daily Tar Heel
Watching from the bench during No. 1 Connecticut’s decisive 23-0 first-half run against her team, North Carolina coach Sylvia Hatchell started begging her players to make the same plays they had been executing all season.

She wasn’t exhorting them to start making a few baskets to slow down the Huskies’ momentum and cut into a rapidly increasing UConn lead.

Rather, Hatchell was more concerned about her team’s effort on the other end of the floor.

“I was just pleading with the kids, especially with all the driving they were doing, somebody take one charge, just one charge,” Hatchell said in a recorded statement from the UNC athletic department.

“Usually we do that, but we weren’t doing it.”

Whatever was missing from UNC’s defense Saturday, Connecticut’s array of offensive playmakers didn’t waste any time in taking full advantage of it.

In the first half against the Tar Heels (13-2), UConn (15-0) found little resistance on their way to shooting a blazing 60 percent from the field.

The Huskies’ hot start left UNC shell-shocked and on the wrong side of a 56-24 halftime score.

Center Tina Charles scored 25 points in the first half alone to outscore North Carolina by one in the game’s opening period.

And UConn only slightly took its foot off the accelerator in the second half, as it pushed the score to an 88-47 final.

The 88 points were not only the most points scored against UNC all season, but were also 28 points above UNC’s season average for points allowed in a contest.

Charles was so good that UConn only needed 12 points from leading scorer and reigning national player of the year Maya Moore, who averages 19 points per game.

“The plan going in was to have two or three players out there and whoever rebounds the ball, the other guys have to beat their man down the court, and (Charles) did,” UConn coach Geno Auriemma said, as quoted on UConn’s athletic Web site.

And on trips when UConn did not connect from the field, Charles and her teammates were finding their way to the free throw line.

The Huskies earned 21 trips to the charity stripe, with Charles and teammate Kalana Greene leading the way with five trips apiece.

“She was drawing a lot of fouls early, and she made it impossible for them to stop her,” Auriemma said.

The only aspect of UConn’s offensive fireworks that struggled against the UNC defense was its three-point shooting.

The Huskies connected on just three of their 18 attempts.

Still, UConn’s offensive performance impressed Hatchell enough to speculate that Saturday might have been its most impressive game of the season.

“How they played against us tonight is got to be as good as they’ve been because they’re like a well-oiled machine out there,” Hatchell said.

“They’re so physical and big and just dominating at times.”

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