The Daily Tar Heel

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Thursday December 8th

UNC forces havoc on defense en route to weekend wins

Jessica Washington was visibly upset after fouling Howard's Tajzhane Dopson on a 3-point attempt midway through the first half on Friday.

Frustrated, the sophomore guard on the No. 13 North Carolina women’s basketball team — which beat Howard 83-49 Friday and UCLA 84-68 Sunday — waited for the next time she had an opportunity to change the game. That chance came just 24 seconds later.

As the Bison’s Te’Shya Heslip brought the ball up to half court, Washington poked it from the sophomore guard’s grasp and dove to the floor in an attempt to grab the loose ball.

After gaining possession, Washington sat up and threw the ball behind her back with her left hand. And as the ball bounced down the floor, senior Danielle Butts scooped up the pass and converted a left-handed finger roll to shift the momentum in the Tar Heels' favor.

That basket sparked a 29-4 run for UNC, and set the pace for a weekend highlighted by turnovers, with the Tar Heels grabbing two wins in their opening regular-season games.

“I knew it was just a matter of time before we were gonna take off,” Coach Sylvia Hatchell said. “That just sorta ignited everybody else to get out there and play a little better defense and to be a little more aggressive.”

That aggressiveness contributed to 27 Howard turnovers and 30 UNC points as a result.

In 2013-14, turnovers were a glaring issue for UNC. The team committed 16.9 a game, ranking them 238th among 343 qualified teams.

Friday, the Tar Heels turned the ball over just nine times, a feat that the team accomplished at no point during the 2013-14 season, Hatchell said.

And while that clip couldn’t be maintained against a top-25 opponent in UCLA, the Tar Heels compensated by ramping up the aggressiveness once again, forcing 21 turnovers in Sunday’s matchup.

“When we turned the ball over on a steal, it’s pretty much a score on the other end," UCLA coach Cori Close said. "I thought their best offense was our bad passes.”

UNC opened up the game by full-court pressing the Bruins, a decision Hatchell made after UCLA turned the ball over 26 times in its opener against James Madison. In the first half, five of the 10 turnovers forced by the Tar Heels were steals, contributing to 12 points.

The second half featured more of the same, with 12 of the team’s 39 second half points coming off of turnovers.

Several times in the second half, those turnovers led to open 3-pointers on the other end. And several of those times, it was senior Brittany Rountree knocking them down.

“The turnovers definitely played a big role,” Rountree said. “Our coaches always tell us wing players to run to the corner, and that’s what I did."

Rountree had 17 points on 4-of-9 shooting against UCLA. Many of her shots came in transition.

UNC finished the weekend having forced 48 turnovers, while only committing 27. That plus-21 differential proved to be the difference for the Tar Heels, who were able to take advantage of other teams’ mistakes while limiting their own.

“We’re going to do that with everybody; we’re going to try and wear them down,” Hatchell said.

“We’re going to throw a lot of different things out there, and the fact that we can do that really keeps other teams off guard.”

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