CHAPEL HILL — North Carolinas womens basketball team sometimes strays from its uptempo strategy during early season non-conference games.
When the Tar Heels do, they receive a tongue-lashing from coach Sylvia Hatchell.
Hatchells kind reminder came with 10 minutes remaining on Wednesday night as the No. 14 Heels slowed down against Robert Morris at Carmichael Arena. Hatchell took a time out and screamed, Lets go, jarring her team and sparking more uptempo basketball down the stretch, leading to a 76-47 victory over the Colonials.
While in little danger of losing in the second half, the Heels were being outrebounded and the timeout served as a needed reminder to return to fastbreak, multiple-possession basketball.
After finishing the 2009-10 season with a disappointing 20-14 record, the Heels are motivated to perform on a higher level, with goal of returning to the national spotlight. Five Heels finished in double figures, led by a team-high 16 points from Italee Lucas and a double-double from sophomore Tierra Ruffin-Pratt (13 points and 14 rebounds).
The Heels opened the game with an 18-4 lead in typical run-and-gun style, sprinting the floor for layups. Later, they extended that lead to 33-18, pushing the ball against a Colonials squad clearly not used to the pace.
Lucas and DeGraffenreid lent their speed and experience to the Heels first-half barrage.
Lucas, the 5-foot-8 shooting guard, scored 12 points, knocking down two 3-pointers. With 9 minutes, 20 seconds remaining in the first half, Lucas stole the ball from a Colonials guard and raced ahead for a layup.
DeGraffenreid, who worked on shooting throughout the off-season, made 3 of 4 from the field, showing her improved range. She also handed out three assists in the first half, including a a beautiful alley-oop to Ruffin-Pratt.
Ruffin-Pratt set up the play with a hard cut from the top of the key, charging hard to the left block and rising high for a perfect pass at the rim, which she softly put in off glass.
UNC senior Jessica Breland added 11 points, three blocks and two steals. Breland, who sat out last season as she recovered from Hodgkins Lymphoma, shot 5 for 11 from the floor.
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