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The Daily Tar Heel

Tar Heels dispose of Iowa in ACC/Big Ten Challenge at home

North Carolina forward Laura Broomfield goes up for a layup against Iowa. The 6-foot-1 junior scored 12 points and grabbed 11 rebounds in 20 minutes of action. It was her first double-double this year.
North Carolina forward Laura Broomfield goes up for a layup against Iowa. The 6-foot-1 junior scored 12 points and grabbed 11 rebounds in 20 minutes of action. It was her first double-double this year.

Despite nearly blowing a 15-point halftime lead, the No. 14 North Carolina women’s basketball team held on to defeat No. 18 Iowa 79-67 Thursday night in Carmichael Arena.

Led by 34 points from a dominating performance from senior guard Italee Lucas, the Tar Heels were able to hold off a sharp-shooting but less athletic Hawkeyes team to get the win in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.

North Carolina came out roaring as its swarming defense forced turnovers and missed shots to help push the Tar Heels to an 11-0 lead in fewer than four minutes. Later in the half, they extended their lead to 20 with a 13-0 run. Even with the big lead, coach Sylvia Hatchell knew the Hawkeyes had the potential to come back.

“We started off strong and got up by 20,” Hatchell said. “But I kept telling the players, ‘Hey, look this is a great team. They can shoot the ball. They’re not going to go away. We’ve got to stay to the course.’”

The Tar Heels went into the half with a 44-29 lead, but Iowa came out shooting in the second half and quickly closed the lead thanks to the 3-point shot. The Hawkeyes made seven of their 11 trifectas in the second half while attempting a school-record 37 on the night.

With the 3-ball and use of a frustrating zone defense, Iowa brought the score within one on two separate occasions in the second frame.

“In the second half we were flat to start with and we can’t be doing that,” Hatchell said. “We’ve got to come out with intensity and execute.”

Both times the Hawkeyes got within a point, Lucas saved the day hitting huge 3-pointers over the Iowa zone.

With just more than five minutes remaining, Lucas hit her sixth and final 3-pointer of the day and then added a smooth fast-break layup after an Iowa turnover to give the Tar Heels a six-point lead they would ride out for the victory.

With starting forward and team captain Jessica Breland not playing up to her standard, Hatchell looked to Laura Broomfield for a boost in the paint. Breland grabbed 10 rebounds as the starter but went a poor 1-for-9 from the field.

Broomfield picked up the slack, though, by making the most of her 20 minutes coming off the bench. She racked up 12 vital points on 5-for-11 shooting while pulling down 11 total rebounds, including five offensive boards. The performance was Broomfield’s first double-double of the season.

Even though her team nearly gave up a huge lead, Hatchell was happy with how they responded to the test.

“I thought we showed a lot of character to not get too rattled and to come back and do what we needed to do,” Hatchell said. “We dug deep when we had to.”

Other than Lucas’ huge offensive night, it was the Tar Heels defense that keyed UNC’s ability to first get, then hold onto, their big lead.

The team had six blocks and eight steals, including three from guard Cetera DeGraffenreid.

When Iowa got close, DeGraffenreid knew the defense would have to step up, and her steal in the final five minutes led to Lucas’ layup that sealed the game.

“I just knew at any point they could get back into the game, so I knew what we were going to do on the offensive end was going to come from what we did on the defense,” DeGraffenreid said. “Whether that was from getting in their face and not letting them shoot threes or getting stills and getting the ball out for a fast break, just whatever we need to do to get that score back up.”

Hatchell was happy to escape with a victory against the Big Ten favorite that she called a “great team.”

“We’re going to continue to get better and that’s the biggest thing,” she said.

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