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The Daily Tar Heel

Tar Heels gear up for round 2 with NC State despite widespread injuries

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Womens basketball against NC State

Though coach Sylvia Hatchell said she would not make excuses for North Carolina holding the fifth spot in the ACC, it’s hard to overlook the way the Tar Heels have made do without a consistent lineup all season.

Ten Tar Heels have missed time and they have played with as few as six healthy players.

UNC (18-8, 8-5 ACC) handled the Wolfpack (15-11, 4-8) in Raleigh Jan. 22, but Hatchell said that when the Tar Heels and N.C. State face off, home-court advantage doesn’t always determine the victor.

With most players at full strength, Hatchell said she anticipates a physical battle when the Tar Heels play N.C. State Sunday in Chapel Hill.

“The most consistent thing is that (the rivalry) hasn’t been consistent,” she said. “Rankings don’t really matter.”

Blemishes on UNC’s record, such as home losses against Georgia Tech and ACC cellar-dweller Clemson, keep the Tar Heels’ postseason outlook uncertain.

But senior She’la White sees the Tar Heels’ unpredictable roster as an advantage. UNC has seven players with more than 10 starts.

“You never know who’s going to step up, or who you’re going to have to shut down,” White said. “You just never know, and I think that’s difficult for other teams to handle.”

White returned to the floor after missing time during ACC play with an ankle injury, which she said is now 90 percent.

After strong sophomore and junior campaigns, senior Laura Broomfield started just 12 games this season while battling injuries.

Chay Shegog and Krista Gross have been the only fixtures for the Tar Heels, starting all 26 games.

“Really it was just me and Krista the whole time and now that everybody’s getting back, we’re building team chemistry,” Shegog said.

Shegog has stepped up in a big way for UNC, averaging 16 points per game after averaging just 8.9 points a game last season.

Opponents have turned their focus to the 6-foot-5 center, forcing the ball to the outside when teams like N.C. State triple team Shegog, as it did earlier this season in Raleigh.

Shegog also has received relief in the low post from 6-foot-6 center Waltiea Rolle, who returned in January after giving birth to a baby girl on Nov. 8.

“With Waltiea and Broom in the game, teams have to play us differently. They can’t only focus on one post player,” Shegog said. “They help spread the floor and their rebounding really helps a tremendous amount.”

Before ACC play, as many as three freshmen had been a part of a starting lineup. But even without the wear and tear from years of physical ACC play, UNC’s younger players have succumbed to injury as well.

Freshman Megan Buckland and sophomore Latifah Coleman are both out for the season with torn ACLs.

It is questionable whether the most recent victim — freshman Danielle Butts — will play Sunday after suffering a concussion.

White said UNC will need the momentum that could be generated against the Wolfpack ­— who White described as “second-best to Duke as far as rival teams go” — to ensure it is playing postseason basketball deep into the spring.

“Our goal is to win the ACC tournament and making it to the NCAA tournament,” White said. “That’s in jeopardy right now. We all have to realize that.”

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Contact the Sports Editor at sports@dailytarheel.com.