by Mike Potter
CARMICHAEL AUDITORIUM/CHAPEL HILL UNC is back "home" after spending its last season and a half sharing the Smith Center with the Tar Heel men's team.
Carmichael, which had been home of the UNC women's basketball program since its inception, has undergone an extensive expansion and renovation.
The place now seats 6,822, primarily in individual bucket seats, and officials say 2,946 of them are filled today.
In a side note, Dean Smith was the only Tar Heel men's coach ever to coach in the building. And yes, I covered a few of those games in the final seasons for the Danville Bee and the Durham Sun. It seated 10,000 on some flat aluminum bleachers with backs back in those days.
Fast forward to the end of 2009 where the Tar Heels will play Kennesaw State, and UNC will be a heavy favorite. KSU, a member of the Atlantic Sun Conference, is in its first season of full championship participation in NCAA Division I.
The result is pretty much as expected, as the Tar Heels roll 89-44.
The suspense doesn't last long, as it's 45-21 at halftime.
Italee Lucas continues her scoring pace, leading the Tar Heels with 16 points in 20 minutes. Freshman Waitiea Rolle added 13, followed by senior forward Trinity Bursey with 11 and Cierra Robertson-Warren with 10.
Tamasha Bolden's 12 points lead the Owls, while Gia Lockett chips in 11.
The Tar Heels totally dominate the rebounding, 60-28. UNC outshoots the visitors 48.1 percent to 30.2. KSU turns the ball over 31 times to 22 for UNC.
UNC center Chay Shegog suffers a concussion in the first half and doesn't return. She is listed as day-to-day heading into the Tar Heels' game against East Tennessee State on Thursday. KSU also loses a player early on as DeAndrea Bullock goes down with an ankle injury in the first five minutes and doesn't return.
They said it ...
UNC coach Sylvia Hatchell: "It's good to be back over here, but this is not the finished product. We're here, but when we get the banners up in the arena, we've got a few other things we're going to be doing and it'll be much better than it is. We wanted to have a few games in here before we started ACC play and this is a good way to get going. Waltiea Rolle continues to get better - she had a perfect (shooting) game today. She'la (White) played well. She had nine assists and her defense made a difference. We're getting better every practice and every week. I'm giving everybody a chance to play so that when we get into tighter games I know who we can depend on. Trinity went in there and played well for us today and did some nice things."
KSU coach Colby Tilley: "I told our players 'You'll always be a footnote in the media guide. They played their first game in Carmichael against Kennesaw State.' I just didn't tell them what the score was going to be. We know coming in what it's all about. We don't have any expectations of pulling the upset or being close. It just gives our kids who dream of playing somewhere like North Carolina the ability to play against North Carolina and to see what it really is like. I can't say it's a fun game because nobody likes to lose. But we just try to get better at the things we do and try to get better for our conference."
Lucas: "Coach (Hatchell) gave us a tour about two days ago of the entire building, and a lot of us were just speechless. It's just amazing. We're very fortunate to be able to play in a building like this. I've seen Coach's office. I'm moving in."
Bursey: "I was just playing with the team in the flow of the game, being aggressive and boxing out, trying to make things happen."
What does it all mean?
That the Tar Heels are going to love their cozy new digs, and that Kennesaw State got a nice paycheck.
Play of the game
Bursey's steal and layup with 12:56 left to put the Tar Heels up 15-6.
UNC leads 2-0.
UNC: Won 5.
KSU: Lost 3.
UNC vs. East Tennessee State, Thursday, 2 p.m.
KSU at North Florida, Saturday, 4:30 p.m.