by Mike Potter
CARMICHAEL ARENA/CHAPEL HILL UNC hasn't had a women's basketball season typical of its recent tradition.
But Tar Heel coach Sylvia Hatchell (pictured) said there's no reason the redemption can't start tonight.
Tonight at 6:30, the Tar Heels will be on the road looking to complete a season sweep of a Georgia Tech team ranked No. 22 in the country. It's the opener of a TV doubleheader on Fox Sports South, which will conclude with No. 6 Duke hosting No. 21 Virginia at Cameron Indoor Stadium at 8:30.
The Duke game is one of two women's contests in Durham tonight, as N.C. Central hosts Longwood on the Eagles' Senior Night. Duke alumna Wanisha Smith is an assistant coach for Longwood.
Hatchell's Tar Heels were the media's preseason picks to win the ACC regular-season title, albeit before All-America candidate Jessica Breland was determined to be out for the season with lymphoma. Breland is almost ready to play, but will take a redshirt and do her senior season in 2010-11.
And the last time UNC played Georgia Tech - that in the Tar Heels' conference opener - it was 13-1 after the 89-78 victory. Now Hatchell's club is 17-9, 5-7 in conference play and scratching to try to wrap up an at-large NCAA berth.
"A win would be really big, because they're ranked Top 20 and they're always tough down there," Hatchell said of the Yellow Jackets. "They press and trap and all that. We played well against them here. They pretty much live off their defense, and we did a pretty good job against their press here I thought. Actually when we played them here, at halftime it was 48-26. We really took off, and we had our fast-break game going that night. But again, a lot of that is Cetera (DeGraffenreid) and Italee (Lucas), too."
DeGraffenreid said she's looking forward to the weekend, with the visit to Atlanta tonight and the home game with Duke on Sunday.
"A lot of times that gives people a lot of momentum in that one-day turnaround," DeGraffenreid said. "N.C. State had just one day and came in and beat us. We've just got to understand that's what we've been trained for. (Playing Georgia Tech) is a big chance. That's what we have to look at right now with these losses that we have. This is a ranked team, and I guess it would give us a confidence boost to beat a ranked team at their place."
Duke could clinch the No. 1 seed in the ACC Tournament with a win tonight or at UNC on Sunday.
N.C. Central is looking for a victory that would give the Eagles a second straight 10-win season.
N.C. Central vs. Longwood
[Friday, 6:30 p.m., McDougald-McLendon Gym]
NCCU leads series 2-0.
Records: NCCU 9-16, LU 8-18.
Audio: WRJD-AM 1410, NCCUEaglePride.com.
Coaches' records - LU: Kristin Caruso 32-52; NCCU: Joli Robinson 206-188.
Leading scorers - LU: Brittanni Billups 11.3; NCCU: Joanna Miller 18.8.
Leading rebounders - LU: Brittanni Billups 5.5; NCCU: Latoya Bennett 7.1.
Assist leaders - LU: Becky Fernandes 3.4; NCCU: Danielle DeBerry 3.4.
UNC at No. 22 Georgia Tech
[Friday, 6:30 p.m., Alexander Coliseum]
UNC leads series 51-12.
Records: UNC 17-9, 5-7 ACC; GT 7-5, 21-7.
Audio: WCHL-AM 1360, TarHeelBlue.com, RamblinWreck.cstv.com.
Video: Fox Sports South.
Coaches' records - UNC: Sylvia Hatchell: 829-291, 557-211 at UNC; GT: MaChelle Joseph 127-83.
Leading scorers - UNC: Italee Lucas 16.2; GT: Brigitte Ardossi 15.7.
Leading rebounders - UNC: Laura Broomfield 7.6; GT: Brigitte Ardossi 7.5.
Assist leaders - UNC: Cetera DeGraffenreid 5.3; GT: Deja Foster 3.6.
No. 6 Duke vs. No. 21 Virginia
[Friday, 8:30 p.m., Cameron Indoor Stadium]
UVa leads series 32-28.
Records: Duke 23-4, 11-1 ACC; UVa 20-7, 8-4.
Audio: WDNC-AM 620, GoDuke.com, VirginiaSports.com.
Video: Fox Sports Net South.
Coaches' records - UVa: Debbie Ryan 632-263; Duke: Joanne P. McCallie 390-168, 74-20 at Duke.
Leading scorers - UVa: Monica Wright 22.7; Duke: Jasmine Thomas 15.7.
Leading rebounders - UVa: Monica Wright 6.3; Duke: Krystal Thomas 7.2.
Assist leaders - UVa: Monica Wright 2.8; Duke: Jasmine Thomas 4.1.