SMITH CENTER/CHAPEL HILL Sylvia Hatchell unveils her UNC women's basketball team before the public for the first time, and as exhibition games go it may not be as much of a cakewalk as most.
The Tar Heels are ranked No. 5 in both major preseason polls and favored to win the ACC after going 28-7 last season. Tonight's opponent is Division II Francis Marion, which went 27-5 last season. Francis Marion is where Hatchell coached for the first third of her career before taking the UNC job.
UNC will be without All-America candidate Jessica Breland, who has been suffering from Hodgkin's lymphoma and may have to redshirt this season.
It's the first of nine scheduled appearances at the Smith Center, where the Tar Heels will play before moving to their permanent home in the renovated Carmichael Auditorium after Christmas. The Patriots play hard but it isn't close, as UNC rolls 105-64. There will be others like this this season at the Smith Center once the games start to count, too.
Hatchell starts a backcourt of Cetera DeGraffenreid and She'la White, leaving Italee Lucas - on the bench at tipoff. It turns out Lucas is being chastised for missing a class.
Laura Broomfield is at power forward while preseason ACC rookie of the year Tierra Ruffin-Pratt is at the small forward spot and Chay Shegog at center as expected.
UNC's five freshmen combine for a total of 63 minutes on the floor.
The Patriots hang on for a bit, leading 4-3 on Dawn Coleman's layup at 19:10. But UNC goes ahead for good at 7-6 on Ruffin-Pratt's jumper at 16:54. FMU trails only 21-14 following a 3-pointer from Eboni Fields at 12:06, but the Tar Heels follow that with a 23-0 run for the knockout.
UNC's biggest lead of the game is 45 on two occasions, the last at 97-52 on a DeGraffenreid layup with 5:08 left in the game.
Carolina gets five players in double figures, as Ruffin-Pratt cans 18 followed by DeGraffenreid with 17, Lucas 14, Broomfield 11 and White 10.
Shannon Singleton-Bates leads all scorers with 28 points for the Patriots, while Fields chips in 16.
UNC shoots 48.2 percent from the floor to FMU's 31.6, wins the rebound battle 68-41 and forces 34 turnovers to 26 of its own.
They said it ...
UNC coach Sylvia Hatchell: "First of all, Francis Marion is one of the best Division II schools in the country, no doubt. They play a lot like we do, pressing and trapping and up and down the floor. They just kept coming after us. The only thing is they don't have as much size as we have. I think in their league (Peach Belt Conference) they're going to do very well. We played everybody a lot of minutes. I think you can see why (Ruffin-Pratt) was picked preseason (rookie) of the year in the ACC. I saw a lot of good things. Some little things, we need to work on. (But) the tempo was good, and I saw some good things we did. This is going to be a fun team to coach."
Ruffin-Pratt: "It's a lot faster in college. You can't take plays off. Practice is a lot more intense. In high school we just went through the motions. Here it's a lot different. More running, up and down the court. Not just half-court stuff."
DeGraffenreid: "The freshmen are fitting in well. We scored 100 points with five freshmen being in and out of there, so they did well out there tonight. They're willing and they listen. You tell them what they need to do and they just do it."
What does it all mean?
That the Tar Heels haven't skipped a beat since last season, when they routinely dealt this way with lesser opponents.
Stars of the game
1. Ruffin-Pratt, with 18 points and seven rebounds.
2. Singleton-Bates, with 28 points and eight rebounds.
3. DeGraffenreid, with 17 points and five each of rebounds, assists and steals.
Play of the game
Ruffin-Pratt canning a 3-pointer for the game's first bucket at 19:30.
Francis Marion at Winthrop (exh.), Saturday, 7 p.m.
UNC vs. Carson-Newman (exh.), Tuesday, 7 p.m.