Guards lead women's rivalry

Staff writerFebruary 8, 2010 

  • North Carolina at Duke

    When: 7 p.m.

    Where: Cameron Indoor Stadium, Durham

    TV: ESPN2 Radio: WDNC-620

Duke's Jasmine Thomas and North Carolina's Italee Lucas are two of the most exciting guards in women's basketball.

Their games - filled with acceleration and variety - can be thrilling to watch, especially when they enter one of their offensive streaks.

Tonight, the No. 6 Blue Devils host the No. 9 Tar Heels at Cameron Indoor Stadium for the first of two regular-season conference games.

Lucas and Thomas - leading scorers for their teams - enter the contest as the ACC's fourth and fifth best scorers. Their offensive skills demand defensive attention, considering both have turned in several memorable performances this season.

Against Ohio State on Dec. 3, Thomas scored 29 points, and Lucas scorched N.C. State with a 33-point outburst on Jan. 25. Lucas has been the Tar Heels' leading scorer nine times this season, registering 15 double-figure games. Thomas has made 41 3-pointers in 21 games and led the Devils in scoring 10 times. She has posted 19 double-figure games.

Both recently answered questions about their games and about the teams' rivalry.

Jasmine Thomas

Q: What's the feeling that comes over you when you enter a scoring zone?

It's definitely a feeling like I can't miss. But at the same time, I feel like I have that internal tempo. I feel like I'm ahead of everyone else and that I know I can stop and pull up because no one is ready for me to do it. I play off of that for a while. But I also realize when it's over. ... I really can't explain the feeling. You feel like you're dominating, and you know, no matter what you do, no one is going to stop you.

Q: Did you ever consider playing for North Carolina?

In the same way I considered playing for anywhere. It was in the early stages of getting recruited. I kind of always felt I wanted to play for Duke. Even trying to be open-minded and giving other schools a chance, it was difficult for me because in the back of my mind I was comparing everything to Duke. [UNC] being down the street I felt like I couldn't do that. I felt like I had a loyalty to Duke. ... I didn't visit North Carolina.

Q: Did you feel like you were part of the UNC-Duke rivalry before you even arrived?

Yeah, I did. I remember watching [former UNC guard] Ivory Latta, and I always thought she was a good player. But when it was time for her to play Duke, she would just irritate me. Only then, though. Only when she was playing Duke. I think it's something you want to be a part of just because it's such a great experience. How this campus is before the game comes up. You just feel that before you get here and you're saying I can't wait until I'm playing in that game. You just feed off it.

Italee Lucas

Q: What's the feeling that comes over you when you enter a scoring zone?

I can't pinpoint the exact feeling, but I know there is a different level of focus. I don't know exactly, it just happens. ... You are in control; no matter how the defense plays you, you're able to counteract that. A lot of it has to do with control and my teammates hitting me at the right places, coaches running plays where I can get that open jump shot. As far as the zone, it has a lot to do with your aggressiveness and how hard you work. If you're giving your all, good things will come. Just never take a possession off and always give my all. Scoring will come.

Q: Did you ever consider playing for Duke?

Ah, no. I went with North Carolina pretty earlier, so all my choices were out the door my sophomore year. Not at all. I didn't visit any schools. I was pretty much set where I wanted to go. I used to play soccer, too, and I really liked Mia Hamm. So just at a young age, I always knew I wanted to go to North Carolina. Once I focused on basketball, North Carolina was always somewhere I wanted to go, the style of play, just everything about them I really enjoyed.

Q: Did you feel like you were part of the UNC-Duke rivalry even before you arrived?

Definitely. There was just something about UNC and Duke, the intensity of it, it brings a feeling over you that you're definitely a part of that rivalry. It's actually before even signing the papers. Every time you heard the word "Duke," you kind of look back like what? Once I verbaled [verbally committed] and once I signed, I wanted North Carolina to win for sure.

robinson@newsobserver.com or 919-829-4781

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