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Lacrosse practice ends as players huddle at midfield, with arms raised and a shout on three.“Family.”One man stands in the middle of it all — a historic resurgence, a turning point and a huddle of 44 brothers.In coach Joe Breschi’s second season, North Carolina is ranked No. 3 nationally heading into this weekend’s ACC Tournament.That success may serve as proof of one family rebuilt.
SEATTLE — Senior guard Tiffanie Shives ignited 7-seeded Gonzaga’s offense with a baseline jumper, ending a scoring drought of nearly seven minutes.And for three subsequent minutes, that offense needed only to be composed of her. Shives knocked down four treys, two of which gave the Bulldogs an offensive burst in the waning minutes of a frenetic, high-scoring game. And all the necessary momentum to hand 10-seeded North Carolina an 82-76 loss in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament.“Everybody was kind of playing their role,” Shives said. “So it was finally time for me to knock down some shots.”Gonzaga entered the game with an 18-game winning streak, undefeated in its conference and with another tournament title under its belt. North Carolina entered with its lowest seeding in team history.Regardless, UNC (19-12) kept pace with Gonzaga (28-4) until the final minutes of the game, within one point with 3:51 remaining.The Tar Heels benefitted from their size advantage in the paint, with sophomore Chay Shegog leading all scorers with 19 points. Standing at 6-feet-5, Shegog was often the tallest player on the court. Sophomore forward Laura Broomfield also contributed 16 points and a game-high 14 rebounds.“I had the height advantage over them, so I knew I could score on them,” Shegog said. “But I had to really fight for my position.”After two of Shives’ three-pointers, Shegog delivered the sole answer for the Tar Heels on the other end. The sophomore executed two turnaround jumpers to keep the Tar Heels within one point with 4:11 remaining.Unfortunately for UNC, Gonzaga had the benefit of a 48 percent field goal percentage on 36-of-75 shooting.Forward Vivian Frieson delivered a short range jumper to extend Gonzaga’s lead to 74-71. After a wide open three by guard Courtney Vandersloot, who dished out an impressive 15 assists, Frieson added another jumper just 20 seconds later.And as UNC coach Sylvia Hatchell pointed out, shooting cured a multitude of ills for Gonzaga down the stretch. North Carolina finished with a 48-42 rebounding edge.“I look at the foul line, I look at rebounds, I look at a lot of things and normally you win games when your numbers are like that,” Hatchell said. “But when a team shoots like that, that really makes the difference.”With two minutes left and a five-point deficit, UNC managed only one field goal to end the game.With 1:23 remaining, Gonzaga’s Heather Bowman solidified the team’s lead after receiving a backdoor pass from Vandersloot to extend their lead before Shives iced the game with two free throws.Though a disappointing loss for the Tar Heels, DeGraffenreid said this game alone would not be a teaching point moving forward.“I think it’s not even the loss, but I think it’s our whole season,” DeGraffenreid said. “Basically, we have to bounce back, and learn some lessons, and refocus, and work with our coaches to figure where we went wrong.”Contact the Sports Editor at email@example.com.
Despite dropping an unexpected number of games this season, North Carolina managed to get a postseason bid.The 10th-seeded North Carolina women’s basketball team will open NCAA tournament play against No. 7-seed Gonzaga at 10:30 p.m. Saturday in the Sacramento region.The Bulldogs enter the tournament as the West Coast Conference champions and with a 27-4 record. The winner will face either No. 2-seed Texas A&M or No. 15-seed Portland State on March 22.
GREENSBORO — With four players on the floor with four fouls, Maryland coach Brenda Frese did not panic.Although North Carolina had rallied from a 10-point deficit to within four points on a timely 3-pointer from UNC junior guard Cetera DeGraffenreid with 1:20 remaining, she stayed steady.Largely because there was one player on the floor who had proven to do the same.Maryland sophomore Lynetta Kizer led the team with 22 points and 10 rebounds — despite playing only 22 minutes due to foul trouble.“When you get in foul trouble, you have to play that much harder,” Kizer said. “Four of us had four fouls. We just kept playing hard. We weren’t worried about the whistle.”And when it came down to it, the whistles never sounded. But the final horn did — and it signaled that Maryland had handed North Carolina an 83-77 loss in the first round of the ACC Tournament.“(Kizer) put this team on her back and her energy and emotion,” Frese said. “She refused to lose.”The Maryland team boasted a young and inexperienced team, much like its UNC opponents.But something evaded North Carolina in the opening minutes when the Terrapins jumped out to an early lead on 10-of-14 shooting.“Just to see the poise and confidence we played with,” Frese said. “We were definitely inspired today.”After what UNC coach Sylvia Hatchell characterized as a lackadaisical start for the Tar Heels, a late rally showed hope that North Carolina might be able to match wills with its opponents.But a relentless attack by Maryland’s post players — led by Kizer’s play — proved too much.“We got so far down, we had to fight back the whole game,” Hatchell said.And despite fighting from deficits as large as 16 points, North Carolina appeared to have hope in a late rally — but it was just that, too late.With 3:31 remaining, Kizer capped a 10-point lead after receiving a no-look pass from teammate Diandra Tchatchouang.When it looked as if the Terrapins’ star forward had delivered the game’s knockout punch, UNC sophomore Laura Broomfield emerged with a set of key buckets to ignite what appeared to be a comeback.Liberated by some of the Terrapins’ adjustments made in response to foul trouble, UNC continued what Broomfield had started.With 2:49 left on the clock, freshman Tierra Ruffin-Pratt launched a 3-pointer that ended up in the hands of Broomfield — who subsequently delivered it to the hoop.Just 44 seconds later, another bucket by Broomfield brought the score to 73-65. On the next possession, She’la White found herself alone and drained a 3-pointer.After a pair of Maryland free throws, DeGraffenreid received the ball at the perimeter with 1:28 remaining. She stepped back, pulled up and sunk a 3-pointer.“When Cetera made that 3, I thought we were going to be able to pull it out,” Hatchell said.It brought the score to 75-71 — but UNC would come no closer.And the loss brought the Tar Heels no closer to their hopes of receiving an NCAA tournament bid.Coming off a 64-54 win against the conference’s top team, Duke, on Sunday, North Carolina had hoped to bolster those hopes.But DeGraffenreid had just one aim for the team.“Trying to get that team back that played against Duke,” she said.Contact the Sports Editor at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Life in the Bahamas never fostered Waltiea Rolle’s ambitions of becoming a basketball star. In fact, it never even introduced her the game.
North Carolina faced No. 6 Duke, ready to close out a regular season characterized by losses of historic proportion.What the team earned Sunday was a chance to rewrite its legacy.“We’re not finished up this year,” UNC coach Sylvia Hatchell said. “This team’s got a lot of great days ahead of them.”North Carolina (18-10, 6-8 ACC) beat Duke 64-54 after the Blue Devils clinched the ACC regular season title Friday.With the win, North Carolina earned a No. 8 seed and will face ninth-seeded Maryland in the first round of the ACC Tournament on Thursday.The win also added further proof to bolster North Carolina’s chance at receiving an NCAA Tournament bid.“We’ll probably have to win a few in the tournament,” Hatchell said. “But I’m hoping this will get us in.”The unranked Tar Heels entered the game with seven losses in their past eight games, including a 79-51 bludgeoning at Duke.But the game was no rerun of that match. In fact, it was no rerun of any game Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie had ever witnessed.“In my 18 years of coaching, I’ve never seen a game like this,” McCallie said.North Carolina finished the game with two players fouled out, one ejection and 20 second-half points from guard Cetera DeGraffenreid.And though Duke registered a 72-47 advantage in shot attempts, its sloppy offense proved a testament to UNC’s defense, which held Duke to 26.4 percent shooting for the game, well below its 42.7 percent season average.Unrelenting physicality characterized the matchup. UNC took hold of the game beginning with a series of missed free throws by Duke.With 13:12 remaining in the game, North Carolina trailed the Blue Devils 42-39. Freshman forward Waltiea Rolle, the biggest UNC contributor to that point with 12 points, six rebounds and six blocks, picked up her fourth foul.Just nine seconds later, forward Cierra Robertson-Warren was ejected after being called for a flagrant foul. UNC committed two more fouls within the minute.But Duke converted just 1-of-8 on the three trips to the charity stripe.And even DeGraffenreid’s signature late-game offensive burst proved surprising.After scoring just two points in the first half, DeGraffenreid added 20 points in the second half.“The coaches kept telling us, ‘Take it to the basket. Take it to the basket,’” DeGraffenreid said.And for more than five minutes, that was all the Blue Devils saw.Staging relentless fast breaks, DeGraffenreid scored 15 points on 17 attempts at the free-throw line.DeGraffenreid sank two free throws to bring UNC within one point with 11:13 remaining. She scored 13 of North Carolina’s next 17 points to give UNC a 57-51 lead with 3:58 remaining.“We enabled her completely,” McCallie said.Duke failed to sink a shot from the field in the final six minutes.“It was just a team effort and a great win,” DeGraffenreid said.If UNC beats Maryland, the team will advance to play top-seeded Duke again. A fitting way to continue a new season’s end — or a new beginning.“Playing Duke three times,” DeGraffenreid said. “What could be better?”Contact the Sports Editor at email@example.com.
When N.C. State forward Bonae Holston arrived at Chapel Hill, she brought one memory from the rivals’ last meeting.“When they won at our house, they stayed on the court and sang,” Holston said. “We didn’t like that.”As North Carolina junior guard Cetera DeGraffenreid left the court, she took one glance back at the scoreboard indicating a 74-63 loss.Despite her 22-point performance, an all-too-familiar scene unfolded at midcourt.The Wolfpack celebration hailed UNC’s sixth loss in seven games as North Carolina (17-9, 5-7 ACC) failed to mount momentum after the win against Wake Forest Thursday.And despite a dramatic size advantage, North Carolina’s play was plagued with defensive miscues and offensive struggles around the rim.“It’s all about effort,” DeGraffenreid said. “We know we should have won the game tonight.”The Tar Heels shot 35.1 percent from the field on the game, missing opportunities to build upon an eight-point lead in the second half and stave off a N.C. State rally.While North Carolina had 19 more shot attempts than the Wolfpack, the field goal percentage was comparable with exception to a glaring N.C. State advantage in three-point percentage.North Carolina shot just 2-of-17 from beyond the perimeter to N.C. State’s 9-of-20.“Two things we’ve been trying to focus on are defense and rebounding,” UNC coach Sylvia Hatchell said. “And we didn’t do a very good job on either one of those tonight.“We gotta keep working. We’ve gotta get in the gym and shoot.”With the loss, UNC dropped to eighth place in the ACC standings.Early on the game, it appeared that North Carolina had seized momentum. After trailing by as many as eight points early on, North Carolina rallied to a one-point deficit going into halftime.The circumstance was a familiar one — one that echoed a one-point halftime deficit against N.C. State earlier this season.And with 16 minutes remaining in the second half, North Carolina led by seven points after a furious 8-0 run staged by the Tar Heels.DeGraffenreid pitched in two buckets during that stretch and led all scorers with 22 points by the game’s end.But the Tar Heels yielded the team’s lead for good after a 15-0 run by the Wolfpack just four minutes later.Two consecutive scoring possessions by Holston invited an onslaught of offensive production from the Wolfpack.Freshman Marissa Kastanek began the attack with a three-pointer to bring N.C. State within five points. Emili Tasler added two more unanswered three-pointers to cap the run and claim the lead.“We were visibility frustrated,” N.C. State coach Kellie Harper said of her team’s first-half performance. “The kids responded, and the kids changed their body language.”With it, they changed the course of the game.Guards DeGraffenreid and Italee Lucas attempted to initiate a late-game rally reminiscent of Lucas’ game-winning performance in Raleigh earlier this season.After shooting just 2-of-13 in the first half, Lucas finished with 15 points — nine of which came in the second half.With 4:59 remaining, forward Cierra Robertson-Warren came up with a screen, and DeGraffenreid breezed by to deliver a layup and bring Tar Heels within four points.Lucas scored on the next two UNC possessions to bring the Tar Heels within two points at 59-61 with 3:20 remaining.But N.C. State refused to concede its lead and scored on the next three possessions to effectively put the game away.“We’re just going to keep working,” Hatchell said.“Until we get over the hump, we’re not going to back off. We’re going to intensify even more.”Contact the Sports Editor at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In the midst of her team’s longest losing streak since 2000, coach Sylvia Hatchell thought she had run out of solutions.She approached her struggling veteran point guard Cetera DeGraffenreid with a proposition.Don’t worry about leadership anymore. Just play like you used to.In a 65-59 overtime win against Wake Forest, the veteran point guard proved she could do both.DeGraffenreid captained a late rally and a valiant overtime effort against the Demon Deacons (15-11, 6-6) with a team-leading 15 points along with nine rebounds, six assists and no turnovers.With the win, UNC (17-8, 5-6) snapped a five-game losing streak, including its most recent tough double-overtime loss against Virginia.Coming into the game, the Tar Heels had fallen out of the Associated Press Top 25 poll — ending a 163-week streak that began in 2001.But after rallying from an early 16-point deficit, North Carolina showed that it would begin its crawl back.“It feels good to win,” Hatchell said. “I’m really proud of the team for coming back the way they did.”With 7.1 seconds remaining in regulation, DeGraffenreid drove into the lane as she had done so many times before.She crossed over her defender and delivered a layup to tie the game at 56-56 and send the game into overtime.In overtime, the Tar Heels held the Demon Deacons to just three points and extended their lead with four key buckets from freshman Cierra Robertson-Warren.“I knew she could do it,” Hatchell said. “I knew she could do it. She’s taking ownership of this team, and that’s what we need her to do.”In the beginning of the game, it looked as if the Tar Heels would not be so lucky.Wake Forest got off to a hot start led by the efforts of Secily Ray, who had 15 first-half points.With 11:52 remaining in the first half, Wake Forest led 24-14 while shooting a smoldering 61 percent from the field. Bolstered by Ray’s prolific first-half performance, the Demon Deacons entered halftime trailing 33-25.But as they began to cool off, UNC began to take over.After struggling as Wake Forest employed double teams in the post, North Carolina made halftime adjustments that proved effective.“We changed the offensive set in the second half,” Hatchell said. “That made it more difficult for them when they would double down low.”With 13:39 remaining, DeGraffenreid drained a three-pointer to rally within seven points of Wake Forest.The shot initiated an offensive takeover by the veteran guard. For the next seven minutes, DeGraffenreid scored 11 of the Tar Heels’ 13 points.Finally, with 7:05 remaining in the game, the junior capped the offensive burst with a signature layup as she raced along the baseline to tie the game at 42-42.In the beginning of overtime, DeGraffenreid assisted every basket scored by the Tar Heels.Robertson-Warren was the first recipient, who led off a clutch four-point overtime performance with a turnaround jumper.Just minutes later, DeGraffenreid dished out another assist to Warren’s waiting hands in the paint to put the Tar Heels up 56-50.Italee Lucas sealed the win after drawing a foul with one second left.“It’s a great feeling just to get that win, DeGraffenreid said. “We knew we could do it all along.“We were tired of losing.”Contact the Sports Editor at email@example.com.
After a recent loss against Florida State, coach Sylvia Hatchell jokingly invited all in attendance to her team’s 6 a.m rebounding practices.There was no joking Thursday night after a 69-62 loss to Boston College. “I have watched more film than I have ever watched, I think. I’ve watched so much that my brain is … ,” Hatchell paused and buried her head. “I watch so much on these teams.”The frustration seemed to have reached a boiling point on her team’s inability to crash the boards, an issue that has been a consistent factor in the team’s recent slide. In the team’s second consecutive loss at home, the Tar Heels found themselves outrebounded 43-39. But the difference proved to be much more dramatic than the difference those four rebounds would convey.Though the Tar Heels boast a highly athletic frontcourt that also includes three forwards standing 6-feet-4 or higher, the Eagles muscled their way to 25 second-chance points while the Tar Heels only managed to muster nine. “Rebounding continues to be a thorn in our side,” Hatchell said. “And we have always been a great rebounding team. All I know to do is keep working on it.”North Carolina’s record when outrebounding opponents is 13-2. But the Tar Heels have only won three of eight games when outrebounded. Hatchell is aware of the statistics, though she struggled to identify the source of her team’s lack of intensity. Sophomore guard She’La White had only one answer.“We have to have more heart,” White said. “The only thing that is killing us is rebounding. We’ve been struggling with that all this year.” Those struggles also became increasingly apparent as the game against Boston College progressed.With 2:09 remaining in the second half, the Tar Heels sought to close the gap on a seven-point deficit. With the shot clock winding down, Boston College’s Stefanie Murphy shot a jumper that bounced off the rim and was bobbled in the post. While a swarm of Tar Heels descended upon her, Murphy came up with the offensive rebound and put in a layup to pad the team’s lead to 62-53.Just a few minutes later, Eagles’ guard Mickel Picco missed a long 3-pointer. Murphy again snatched the rebound and scored two more points.When Boston College coach Sylvia Crawley analyzed her team’s big win on the road, she knew there was only one formula. “We knew it would be a battle of the boards,” Crawley said. “(We) controlled the boards.”Waltiea Rolle, a freshman who drew the assignment of guarding Eagles’ forward Carolyn Swords, fought in the post and came up with five rebounds.While she chipped in four key blocks and 11 points in one of her standout outings this year, she did not want to speak about her recent personal progress.Instead, she could only air the grievances that were shared by her coach and teammate.“It was a battle,” Rolle said. “I was just trying to block her out as hard as I could. I’m tired of losing, too.”Contact the Sports Editor at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Italee Lucas never needed more than one word to measure her success.“My dad always told me to be undeniable,” the junior guard said. “It means don’t let anyone question your work ethic, whether you’re a leader.”Lucas has continued to fight for that recognition this season alongside junior guard Cetera DeGraffenreid.But with two consecutive ACC losses, the two veterans stand at a critical juncture.While the direction of the team remains in question, another fact has proved undeniable.The success of the North Carolina women’s basketball team relies on those two names.“However they go,” coach Sylvia Hatchell said. “That’s how our team goes.”Stepping upIn UNC’s Feb. 1 loss against Florida State, Hatchell approached the pair with a reproach and reminder.This is your team.That ownership began this summer, spurred by an unexpected occurrence.Senior Jessica Breland, UNC’s leading returning scorer, was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. While basketball took a backseat to Breland’s recovery, DeGraffenreid and Lucas were thrust to the forefront of the team.“Man, you lose the leader of the team,” DeGraffenreid said. “We said, ‘Someone has to step up. It has to be one of us.’”Lucas and DeGraffenreid lead UNC in scoring with 17 and 13 points per game, respectively.But a recent slide has proved those efforts insufficient.North Carolina (16-5, 4-3) ranks fifth in the conference, with three of its losses recorded since conference play began.“It’s our veterans, DeGraffenreid and Italee, who are not playing well,” Hatchell said. “That’s our experience.”In two ACC losses against Miami and Virginia Tech, Lucas and DeGraffenreid averaged only 15 points combined.Lucas committed an uncharacteristic eight turnovers against Miami, and DeGraffenreid had just six points on 2-of-8 shooting.“It’s tough to have off games for us,” Lucas said. “We have to accept that. We have to embrace that.” At times, the tandem has shown flashes of brilliance, often in late-game surges.In a road win against N.C. State, Lucas rallied the team from a nine-point deficit to win with a career-high 33 points.DeGraffenreid delivered a vital eight points in the second half in a win against Maryland, which included two crucial back-to-back layups.But flashes alone have not been enough.In a rally against Florida State, Lucas’ second-half 14 points could not overcome a 19-point deficit.“We’ve been together since we were freshmen. We’ve always had these talks,” DeGraffenreid said. “But now they are getting more serious. How can we play better? How can we lead?”Moving forward As UNC heads to No. 6 Duke, DeGraffenreid can’t help but remember who first led her there.Erlana Larkins. LaToya Pringle. Indisputable leaders to whom that 2007 team belonged.Lucas and DeGraffenreid will follow in their footsteps tonight, keeping in mind the leader who watches from the bench.“Together we know we can be stronger than what we have lost,” DeGraffenreid said. “We just have to keep fighting.” Hatchell considered Friday how good the team could be. If only her All-America guards could get back on track and remain there.“I don’t know,” she said. “Better than I could even anticipate.”As she spoke with her veteran backcourt, she reminded them of one fact she does know for sure. “Coach was saying T is our little engine,” Lucas said, referring to DeGraffenreid. “I can be the driver.”As they go, the team will go.Contact the Sports Editor at email@example.com.
Before Thursday’s game against Miami, coach Sylvia Hatchell emphasized to her players the importance of a win.After an 80-69 loss, North Carolina (16-5) will have to wait for another chance. UNC dropped its second consecutive game against a conference opponent.After trailing for most of the game, UNC rallied from a 13-point deficit to tie the game 61-61 with 7:05 remaining.But the Tar Heels were unable to reclaim the lead, despite a season-high 20 points and 13 rebounds for freshman Waltiea Rolle.UNC remained scoreless while the Hurricanes staged a 10-0 run over a five-minute stretch.It doesn’t appear the road ahead will be any easier.No. 6 Duke (6-1) is at the top of the ACC standings, and UNC will travel to Cameron Indoor Stadium on Monday to try to avenge its loss.North Carolina will rely on its conference-leading scoring offense and rebounding to get back on a winning track.“Every game is so important,” Hatchell said. “One game can be the difference between first place and sixth place.”Midway through ACC play, No. 9 UNC has a 4-3 conference record. The two other ACC losses came against Virginia Tech on the road and UNC’s most recent home game against Florida State.Those losses put UNC among four teams that stand tied at third place with four wins apiece.Throughout the season, seven ACC teams have spent time in AP Poll. Many of them have fallen victim to upsets by their conference opponents.“I’ve been coaching for 24 years now,” Hatchell said. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen the ACC so evenly matched.”The outlook for the Tar Heels will rely largely on the leadership of two veteran players and the ongoing growth of the youthful team.The team’s scoring has fallen largely on the shoulders of Italee Lucas and Cetera DeGraffenreid, who rank fourth and ninth, respectively, in the conference.Lucas and DeGraffenreid remain the only upperclassmen among the team’s starters and have led the team in scoring for a combined 14 games this year.“We want to do well this season,” Hatchell said. “But at the same time, we’re building to the future.” Hatchell has implemented 10 different starting lineups this season, with a number of underclassmen filling in the rotation.The team’s youth has been tested during conference play. And Hatchell’s subsequent assessment has been simple.“The team needs to be mentally tougher,” she said.The largest deficit the team has overcome in a win is nine points, which came against N.C. State.Despite rallying from a 19-point deficit to within one point against Florida State on Monday, the team failed to obtain the lead.“We did that at N.C. State, so I know this team can do it,” she said. “But Florida State showed we’ve still got a lot to learn.”Contact the Sports Editor at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Coach Sylvia Hatchell began to list off a series of outstanding records held by her team. Fifty-one wins out of the last 52 games played in Chapel Hill. Nineteen straight conference wins at home. She had one pointed reason. She wanted to remind her players those records were no more after an 83-73 loss to No. 15 Florida State (19-4, 5-2 ACC).“We’ll see what that means to our players,” Hatchell said. “I’m not sure how much it means to them.” Junior Italee Lucas and sophomore Chay Shegog hung their heads, answering in barely audible tones. Together, the pair combined for 36 points to ignite a furious second-half rally. But it failed to overcome a woeful first-half performance that had allowed Florida State’s lead to balloon to 19, and eventually left No. 9 North Carolina (16-4, 4-2) trailing 36-24 at halftime. With the loss, North Carolina conceded its second-place standing in the ACC where a logjam of teams stand tied with four wins apiece. “We weren’t ready when we started,” Hatchell said. “I don’t know what it was. I thought we had them ready to play.” Coming into the contest, UNC boasted the top-ranked scoring and rebounding team in the ACC. In the first half, those trends would never have been apparent. North Carolina got off to an uncharacteristically slow start, shooting just 26 percent from the field in the first half. The Seminoles quickly jumped on the Tar Heels, proving they could effectively handle UNC in the paint — on both ends of the court. By game’s end, the Tar Heels were out-rebounded 47-32, their largest deficit this season. When out-rebounded, UNC has only won three games this season. “We used to intimidate people,” Hatchell said. “We don’t go after people anymore. We’re too soft.” Offensively, North Carolina also struggled to establish post presence, settling for just eight points in the paint in the first half, compared to its 32 in the second. UNC recovered in the final half of the game, with Lucas staging numerous fast breaks and feeding Shegog in the post. Shegog scored all 16 of her points in the second half, while Lucas chipped in 14 of her 20 points after intermission. With 3:25 remaining, Lucas went coast to coast and delivered an impressive one-handed layup to give the Tar Heels a fighting chance. Leading 66-65, Florida State called a timeout. But while UNC proved it might reclaim momentum, it could not reclaim the lead. During the next two minutes, the Seminoles killed North Carolina’s rally with an 8-0 run of their own.Near the end of that run, Lucas went up with a 3-pointer to try to stave off FSU’s momentum.But as it was decisively blocked by Florida State’s Jacinta Monroe, the play seemed to encapsulate the problem that had plagued the Tar Heels in the first place. A lack of physicality. “The fact that we came back was really, really good so you have to give us credit for that,” Hatchell said. “But we never should have been in that situation to begin with.” Shegog stared at the table, as she was asked exactly what this loss meant to her and her teammates. Whether her coach’s assessment was accurate. Whether the loss would rally the team.“I don’t know,” Shegog said quietly. “I hope so.”Contact the Sports Editor at email@example.com.
With her team coming off two consecutive road losses, North Carolina women’s basketball coach Sylvia Hatchell decided it was time for some changes.
It is 1994, and the jersey-clad hopeful waits to hear his name.
With an 88-47 rout of North Carolina, UConn elevated its winning legacy to the forefront of women’s college basketball.
North Carolina guard Italee Lucas had only a few words to describe her 23-point first-half performance against Georgia Tech Wednesday.
Members of North Carolina's backcourt didn't fail to catch the attention of Gardner Webb coach Rick Reeves.But that didn't begin with Italee Lucas and Cetera Degraffenreid's dynamic performance in UNC's 81-65 victory Sunday.It began when he was recruiting for his own team. "Lucas is awesome," he said with a laugh. "Degraffenreid, I'm still mad she hasn't sent my questionnaire back."Lucas turned in one of her most complete games of the season, recording a season-high in assists, steals, and rebounds. Degraffenreid finished as the team's leading scorer in her third consecutive game, finishing with 19 points and a season-high eight rebounds. "I honestly don't know where they came from" she said. "I remember my two offensive rebounds, I don't remember eight."Coach Sylvia Hatchell said that the juniors' consistent success this season has served to anchor a team characterized by youth and inexperience. That became evident as the freshmen class found itself plagued with foul trouble, as Tierra Ruffin-Pratt, Waltiea Rolle and Cierra Roberston-Warren each ended the game with four personal fouls. As a result of experimenting with lineups to establish long-term rotations, Hatchell said she has come to rely on her backcourt to anchor on-court success. Sunday's lineup composed of one freshman, two sophomores and the two juniors. "I can see, as we go into the heat of battle, who can do certain things for us," Hatchell said. "These two are our leaders."That became increasingly clear during one decisive juncture of the game as the pair helped stave off a 10-2 run by the Bulldogs with 10:36 remaining in the second half. A layup by Margaret Roundtree capped the Bulldogs' run, which cut the margin to 53-47. Lucas and Degraffenreid responded with their own 9-0 run in less than two minutes. After a timeout called by Gardner-Webb, Lucas sank two free throws to extend the margin to eight. Degraffenreid scored on the next two consecutive positions, scoring on a layup and then driving to the basket for a bucket and a foul. Lucas helped sustain the team's offensive momentum throughout the game by dishing out five assists. Ruffin-Pratt became the recipient of one such assist with 4:57 remaining in the game, when Lucas penetrated the Bulldogs' defense with a no-look pass over her right shoulder.Lucas said she expects the team to only find more opportunities like that as the young team gains more experience. "With our younger post players, when they get used to when the ball is coming, our assists will go up," Lucas said. Hatchell said she also expects improvement in the near future.But amidst those changes, she maintained that she expects certain consistences will prevail."We're going to keep working hard and getting better and better," Hatchell said. "And these two are going to continue to lead us."
In the postseason, striker Alex Dixon has found his confidence, his scoring touch and the back of the net. The only thing that has yet to be recovered is his signature No. 3 jersey, which went missing during the regular season.“Someone either stole it,” he said with a laugh, “or I lost it.”But with three of the team’s five postseason goals to his name — and No. 17 jersey — Dixon has embraced the change. As for the sophomore’s subsequent success, coach Elmar Bolowich said he expected it all along. “With a striker, sometimes you have games where you have a stretch of six, seven games where nothing happens,” he said.“I think that’s what happened to Alex. He was off his rhythm, and he struggled a little bit. He had some injuries where he wasn’t 100 percent, but he still played. Lately, he’s recovered some and found his confidence. Now he’s hitting his stride.”He couldn’t have found a better time.Scoring in his third consecutive game, Dixon registered North Carolina’s game-winning goal to secure UNC’s berth to the College Cup in a 2-1 win over Drake on Friday. It was his second game-winning goal of the NCAA tournament and his eighth goal of the season. Six of those eight scores have come in the last seven games. Initially, the Tar Heels failed to capitalize on shots, even though they received ample opportunities in front of the net in the first half and outshot the Bulldogs by a 7-1 margin.“We just couldn’t get the goals in the first half when we had the chances to do so,” Bolowich said. “But our goal was, in the first 15 minutes coming out of halftime, to score.”The usual suspect delivered.With 35:12 remaining in the half, sophomore Kirk Urso struck first. Just three minutes later, Dixon used his signature speed to race up the field and split the defense for a breakaway shot from 18 yards out. The team’s second-leading scorer punctuated the eventual game-winner with a backflip — another move becoming a regular in the postseason. It also seemed to signal a return from the lingering injuries Dixon battled earlier the season. Despite his injuries, Dixon played in 20 games and made 19 starts. “The trainers have done a good job with me,” he said. “I’ve been in the entire season. Being healthy, I gotta keep it going and hopefully I won’t break down. But this is definitely the best I’ve felt all year.”Dixon’s old jersey last made an appearance during his hat trick performance against Stetson on Oct. 28.The game marked what Bolowich called the breakout he had been waiting to see. Dixon notched his first collegiate career hat trick in the 7-0 regular season win.The momentum has carried. In the second round of the NCAA tournament, the sophomore added a late goal to extend North Carolina’s 2-0 victory against Brown. In the subsequent match against Indiana, Dixon scored the game-winner with a 28th minute strike to secure the 1-0 win against the Hoosiers.With North Carolina heading to its second consecutive College Cup, Dixon has memories — and a streak — he’d like to extend with No. 17. “I’m going to keep it now,” he said. “It’s been working out.”Contact the Sports Editor at firstname.lastname@example.org.
When players from Charleston Southern arrive at practice, they invoke some familiar names. “When our players come in, they talk about, I’m (Cetera) DeGraffenreid. I’m (Chay) Shegog,” CSU coach Julie Goodenough said. “These are the players they emulate in practice.”Still, in Chapel Hill, the underdogs managed to conjure something their heroes had never seen.In a narrow 76-67 UNC win, CSU shot 17-48 from beyond the arc. Both figures are record highs for a North Carolina opponent.At times, it appeared that CSU might show No. 4 UNC something else it has not seen this season — a loss.When asked the positives of the game, UNC coach Sylvia Hatchell paused.“That we won,” she joked. “I think we learned a lot. Their style is very different than us, and it will help us since we had to make adjustments.”Hatchell said that the team anticipated the Buccaneers’ international style drive-and-kick offense. That meant that the 7-0 Tar Heels were forced to make many unprecedented adjustments — like scrapping help-side defense and focusing on containing players with strict man-to-man.“You can’t play as much weak side, and you can’t help on penetration,” Hatchell said. “But we hadn’t played a team like this, so it was good for us.”In the second half, the Tar Heels also tried employing a zone defense to help contain the three-point barrage. It barely curbed it. The Buccaneers finished the second half shooting 40 percent from beyond the arc.Offensively, UNC sank just one shot from the perimeter but still finished 50 percent from the field.Given North Carolina’s size advantage, Hatchell said the biggest disappointment was UNC’s meager 46-43 rebounding margin.“I told them if they got outrebounded, we were going to have rebounding practice at 6 o’clock in the morning,” Hatchell said. After entering halftime with a 10-point lead, the Tar Heels adjusted on both ends of the floor and subsequently regained its rebounding edge.Forward Laura Broomfield said much of the team’s rebounding woes were self-inflicted.“A lot of times we were taking it from each other,” she said. “Our heart and our intensity was there. We just have to learn not to take it from each other.”Offensively, UNC returned to feeding the ball in the post, a campaign that helped UNC string together a 19-7 run and open its largest 22-point lead of the game.The Tar Heels managed to stave off late rallies by the Buccaneers that diminished the lead to nine.When Hatchell was asked whether the team would be rebounding at dawn, she smiled.“They won that by three so I’ll keep my word,” Hatchell said. “As much as I love rebounding practice at six in the morning, I’ll keep my word. “1:30. We’ll do it then.”Contact the Sports Editor at email@example.com.
Like last year, North Carolina entered its season opener with the title of preseason ACC favorites. Less familiar were some of the names defending it.The No. 5 UNC women’s basketball team routed College of Charleston 88-57 on Friday. Sophomores Laura Broomfield and She’la White led all scorers with 14 points apiece, while junior Cetera DeGraffenreid and freshman Tierra Ruffin-Pratt added 13 points each.UNC trailed 13-10 five minutes into the game before staging a 16-2 run in the final six minutes of the half. During that period, UNC forced five turnovers and limited the Cougars to 1-of-9 shooting from the field. After seizing a 46-27 lead at halftime, UNC never looked back — though in the opening minutes of the game, it was hard not to. The Tar Heels had expected to fill a void by the graduated leading scorer Rashanda McCants. But nobody predicted to be without second-leading scorer Jessica Breland, who is recovering from Hodgkin’s lymphoma.The next-leading scorer, Italee Lucas, stepped on a teammate’s foot and hyperextended her knee in practice.Absent the pair’s combined average of 28 points a game, the result on the court was a familiar one. With the win, UNC won its season-opener for the ninth consecutive year.“A lot of people stepped up,” coach Sylvia Hatchell said. “Italee wasn’t there, and she gives us energy. We still beat a very good team without being at full strength, especially with our perimeter game.”North Carolina struggled early on, shooting just 38 percent from the field in the first half while a weak transition defense allowed the Cougars plenty of open looks to remain in close contention.“I thought we pushed it up and down the floor pretty good,” Hatchell said. “But we were taking too many jump shots early — then we started getting inside.”It took little time for North Carolina’s touted size and athleticism to take over.After missing her first six shots, Ruffin-Pratt finished the game shooting 6 of 17 from the floor. DeGraffenreid, the only returning starter who played in the game, went to the line eight times, drawing all of her 13 points from free throw attempts. Broomfield had another outstanding game, as the sophomore forward set personal records with her point total and nine rebounds.“This helped us grow,” Broomfield said.“There’s definitely added comfort knowing every day I have more of a role on this team.”The forward’s teammates would likely agree.While Lucas is expected to return to the lineup for Wednesday’s matchup against Coastal Carolina, Breland’s status for the season remains unsure, Hatchell said.Though she said the young team exhibited both good and bad — 13 turnovers in the second half being among them — she isn’t worried. “We’re going to keep getting better,” she said. “We will.”Contact the Sports Editor at firstname.lastname@example.org.