by Mike Potter
CARMICHAEL ARENA/CHAPEL HILL UNC carries a No. 14 national ranking as the Tar Heels play the second of four straight home games to start the women’s basketball season.
It has been so far, so good in the comeback of senior forward Jessica Breland, who sat out all last season with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. She’ll start tonight with fellow seniors Italee Lucas and Cetera DeGraffenreid in the backcourt, Chay Shegog at center and Tierra Ruffin-Pratt on the wing.
Things end up pretty much as expected, as the Tar Heels dominate from the outset and roll 76-47.
UNC comes out very strong, going up 16-2 on a Lucas 3-pointer
The Colonials trail 40-24 on a Kristine Silaraja layup with 19:51 to go, but the Tar Heels scored the next 10 points including Shegog’s turnaround with 14:58 left to put the game away.
Lucas leads the way with 16 points while Ruffin-Pratt — playing without the braces she sported most of last season to stabilize her shoulders, adds 13 and a career-high 14 rebounds.
DeGraffenreid adds 12 points, Breland 11 and Waltiea Rolle 10 for the 2-0 Tar Heels, who have won all four meetings in the series.
Latvian guard Silaraja gets 20 points and Dominican guard Yohanna Morton 11 for Robert Morris (0-2), which has seven players from outside the United States on its roster.
UNC shoots 46 percent from the floor to RMU’s 31, wins the rebound battle 49-39 and commits 10 turnovers to the visitors’ 19.
They said it …
UNC coach Sylvia Hatchell: “Pratt had a good game,” UNC coach Sylvia Hatchell said. “It was good to get that out of that position. This was probably her best game. I knew she was capable of doing it. Last year there were just too many things with her shoulders and all that. But she’s worked hard. She could be even more aggressive offensively and I think she will be as we move along. … We knew they (the Colonials) were going to be a good shooting team. They’ve got some kids, especially their foreign kids who are nice players and make shots.”
RMU coach Sal Buscaglia: “It’s great experience for the young ladies to play a team at this level. It only makes you better. It puts you in a situation where focus is going to be the main thing. You’ve got to bring everything to the court.”
Ruffin-Pratt: “Without the braces I guess there’s more confidence in me going to the basket. They’re throwing me perfect passes so it’s hard for me not to make shots. I feel a lot comfortable. The braces kind of held me down a little bit. Now that I have them off I’m going to the basket a lot harder.”
Breland: “Everything’s coming along,” Breland said. “I’m trying to get the wrinkles out of everything. As a team I think, outside of this game, we’re doing good. We’re playing together and that’s a good thing because when you play big teams it’s not going to be just one person we need to stop. It’s going to be multiple players. I’m trying to get back in the swing of things. It’s different from playing pickup with your teammates. Playing in a real game, I have to get used to how everything used to be and get back into the flow of that.”
What does it all mean?
That the Tar Heels continue to roll over outgunned early-season opposition, while Robert Morris is probably going to be pretty good when its conference play gets going.
UNC leads 4-0.
UNC: Won 2.
RMU: Lost 2.
Coastal Carolina at UNC, Friday, 8 p.m.
Robert Morris at Cincinnati, Sunday, 2 p.m.