Rebounding, sharing the basketball and finding open teammates, the North Carolina women's basketball team found success against N.C. State on Friday night and held on for a 83-76 victory at Carmichael Arena.
Showcasing their height, versatility and depth, the Tar Heels won the contest for the boards with a 47-40 advantage. With rebounds in tow, they created opportunities in half-court sets and in typical fashion on breakaways.
Early in the second half, the Heels took a 60-38 lead the largest of the game on a classic open court play. Sophomore Tierra Ruffin-Pratt snagged a defensive rebound and fed an outlet pass to senior Jessica Breland just beyond the halfcourt line. She dribbled once before zipping a pass to senior guard Italee Lucas charging into the lane for a layup.
State, facing a blowout, pulled back into the game with three 3-pointers by sophomore Marissa Kastanek and trailed 65-56 with 8 minutes, 46 seconds remaining.
Kastanek, last seasons ACC player of the year, would finish with a game-high 30 points.
No matter, the Heels kept looking for each other and withstood the furious rally, with senior Cetera DeGraffenreid keeping her head high and delivering precise passes. She found Breland wide open in the paint. Then the 5-foot-6 guard collected two rebounds, finding Lucas for a short baseline jumper.
Later a skip pass from Ruffin-Pratt landed softly in the hands of Lucas on the right baseline. She squared, released and swished her ?? 3-pointer of the game and pushed the Heels lead to 77-66 with 3:30 remaining.
State, fighting for each offensive possession, would cut the lead to eight with two minutes remaining yet could not suppress the Heels. They shot 44.4 percent from the field and outscored their opponents 40-20 in the paint.
The Heels also scored 20 points off 16 offensive rebounds.
UNC senior Italee Lucas scored a team-high 19 points, six assists, five turnovers and three steals in 32 minutes.
Junior center Chay Shegog added 13 points and six rebounds, while DeGraffenreid 11 points, four rebounds and one assist.
Kastanek, playing with a black left eye, scored a career high and grabbed six rebounds, hitting the floor often for loose balls. Junior Bonae Holston contributed 11 points and nine rebounds.
Freshman Breezy Williams added eight points on 2-for-4 shooting from 3-point range. Senior Amber White finished with six points, nine assists and six turnovers.
The Heels used a 14-3 run in the first half to carry a 42-26 lead into halftime.
Notably, it was the Heels' ability to find the open player and knock down the open shot.
For instance, Breland received a pass on the right block, turned in side and dropped a bounce pass to senior guard Cetera DeGraffenreid cutting under the basket for a layup. That put the Heels ahead 28-22.
Later, Ruffin-Pratt found junior She'la White at the top of the key for a wide open 3-pointer.
With 43 seconds left in the first half North Carolina's Breland and N.C. State's Williams were both given technical fouls by the referee for their part in an altercation.
Both players moved into the faces of the other and had a heated exchange that resulted in teammates and the referees stepping in and moving them apart. Their actions ensued after they were tangled on the floor following a free throw by Lucas. No punches were thrown and both players were sent to the bench by coaches.
This was the 91st meeting between the two rival programs.