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The Daily Tar Heel

Freshmen play big role on women's basketball team

In discussing the talented crop of freshmen at her disposal this season, North Carolina women’s basketball coach Sylvia Hatchell likes to point out that her rookies have the kind of winner’s mentality that can help carry UNC deep in postseason play.

After all, each of her five freshmen players, including redshirt Shannon Smith, finished out her high school career with a championship.

But it might be another, more quantifiable talent that these freshmen have brought that will help UNC move closer to a title of its own — 3-point shooting.

Freshman guards Brittany Rountree and Megan Buckland, together with senior point guard She’la White, poured in six of UNC’s seven 3-pointers in Wednesday night’s 91-35 drubbing of UNC Greensboro, a game in which the Tar Heels shot better than 46 percent from beyond the arc.

UNC

On the season, the pair of Rountree and Buckland has hit threes at a 41.7 percent clip to bolster a UNC attack that struggled from 3-point territory a season ago, shooting just 29.7 percent from deep.

During a particularly rough patch of 2010-11 conference play, in which the Tar Heels dropped four straight ACC games, UNC shot worse than 20 percent from beyond the 3-point arc, including a dismal 2-for-22 performance in a loss to Miami.

But the additions of Rountree and Buckland, as well as the considerable strides made by White in the offseason, leave the Tar Heels better equipped to handle bigger, conference foes this season.

“I really like their ability to knock down threes,” senior forward Laura Broomfield said of the newcomers. “We’re going to really need that during the ACC, when all the pressure’s on us on the inside.”

With its guards knocking down outside shots against the Spartans, UNC was able to spread the floor with four- and sometimes five-guard lineups, allowing its two primary post players to stay fresh throughout the contest.

Though Broomfield and center Chay Shegog played only 17 and 21 minutes, respectively, both tallied double-figures in points, with Broomfield notching her third-straight double-double.

“We’ve been playing four guards, more so, just around one post player,” Hatchell said. “But you know, our kids can make shots and you’ve got to guard them so that gives that post player more one-on-one inside.”

With UNC-G forced to honor the outside shot, the Tar Heels’ quick, guard-heavy groups burned the Spartans’ larger lineups, pouring in a steady stream of easy layups on the baseline back-door cut.

The smallish look might be unorthodox, but Hatchell believes it will help the Tar Heels’ exploit their newfound shooting touch.

“You think, ‘Well that would be a disadvantage.’ No, No. They’ve got to come out and guard us,” Hatchell said. “That could be a disadvantage for them in the mismatch department cause if they don’t come out there and guard, we’ve got all these kids who can score and shoot it.”

Contact the Sports Editor at sports@dailytarheel.com

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