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The Daily Tar Heel

Senior Italee Lucas leads women's basketball past Iowa

Guard shoots lights out in home contest

Italee Lucas scored 34 points agaisnt the Hawkeyes, making 14-of-21 and six 3-pointers. The guard’s 18.4 points per game average is the team’s best this year.
Italee Lucas scored 34 points agaisnt the Hawkeyes, making 14-of-21 and six 3-pointers. The guard’s 18.4 points per game average is the team’s best this year.

North Carolina needed an answer. As their 20-point lead slowly dwindled to just two, the Tar Heels realized the visiting Iowa Hawkeyes weren’t going away easily.

The slow, methodical comeback of the Hawkeyes had left the Tar Heels in a six-minute scoring drought and they needed something to bring them alive.

Enter Italee Lucas.

Open in the left corner, Lucas hauled in a pass from Tierra Ruffin-Pratt and knocked down the baseline three. Two possessions later, point guard Cetera DeGraffenreid found Lucas open in front of the Tar Heel bench. As she hoisted her second three in as many possessions, the whole bench rose to its feet, hands in the air.

Swish.

As Lucas held her follow-through all the way down the court, it was obvious that the night belonged to her.

“Italee made some big shots, we ran a couple plays to give her some looks and she knocked them down,” UNC coach Sylvia Hatchell said.

Big shots might be an understatement.

Every time Iowa seemed poised to take the lead, Lucas had an answer. When the Hawkeyes made another run to bring the score to 61-60, the senior countered with another three followed immediately by a breakaway layup.

The 34-point performance left Iowa coach Lisa Bluder without an explanation.

“Lucas is a terrific player” Bluder said. “She’s even better than I thought she would be on film.”

The tall and physical Hawkeyes were not giving away easy layups. The fastbreak points that bolstered the Tar Heels in the first half were nowhere to be found.

Though Lucas knew her team needed her, it was their energy that bolstered her scoring explosion.

“We feed off each other,” Lucas said. “Sometimes I see my teammates getting frustrated and I know they look toward me for that motivational push and I feed off them too. If something like that gets our team going, that’s what I’m striving for.”

Lucas has been the offensive catalyst for her team from the very beginning. Last season her streaky 3-point shooting showed in her .344 average.

But this season, her scoring average of 20 a game and .462 3-point percentage has buoyed the team to a bevy of blowout wins and an 8-0 record.

But DeGraffenreid believes it is her focus, not her scoring acumen that makes her invaluable to the team.

“Today in the huddle she was getting everybody focused and ready to go and you just know that she is going to go out there and be focused,” DeGraffenreid said. “She hit those threes back-to-back and kept us in the game. After that I know that everybody just knew, ‘OK we got to get ready and we have to go.’”

Lucas’ torching of the nets is something DeGraffenreid is accustomed to by now.

“Nothing new,” she said.

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