by Mike Potter
CARMICHAEL ARENA UNC plays its unique version of a “bonus game” again this afternoon, when for the third year in a row the Tar Heels play a regular-season game after the ACC Tournament.
The opponent is Atlantic Sun Conference member Kennesaw State (9-20), the first such opponent which is not in “transition” from NCAA Division II and was eligible to play in the NCAA Tournament this time.
The Tar Heels (25-8) are ranked No. 14 after finishing second in the ACC Tournament, and this will be a tuneup for their participation in the NCAA Tournament beginning next weekend. They will be prohibitive favorites today.
That’s how it plays out, as the hosts roll 98-52 and all 12 Tar Heels in uniform score.
UNC takes a 6-0 lead before Coach Sylvia Hatchell inserts an entire second five. It’s 13-0 following a She’la White 3-pointer before Ashley Holliday gets the Owls on the board with a 3-pointer at 14:28.
When Nicole Powell hits the floor at 5:48 and UNC up 37-19, all 12 Tar Heels in uniform have played.
UNC is up 52-27 at the break, with Waltiea Rolle the leading scorer with nine points.
The second half is more of the same.
The Tar Heels’ largest lead is 48, at 93-45 following a Candace Wood free throw with 5:09 to play.
Jessica Breland, Rolle and Tierra Ruffin-Pratt lead UNC with 13 points each while Italee Lucas and She’la White chip in 12 each. Breland — who sat out all of the 2009-10 season with Hodgkins’ lymphoma, now has 1,505 career points after playing her final home game along with Lucas, Cetera DeGraffenreid and Powell. Krista Gross has 10 rebounds to go with her nine points.
Holliday finishes with 17 points, while the Owls’ Chelcey Farrar ties Gross as game-high rebounder with 10.
UNC shoots 48.1 percent to the visitors’ 30.4, wins the rebound battle 54-41 and commits 20 turnovers to the visitors’ 32.
They said it …
Hatchell: “We hadn’t played in a week, and I thought as the game went along we got better. As the game started we were not real good. It’s just good to get back into it. We won’t know who we’re playing until tomorrow and we may not play until Sunday. That’s too long. You practice, but playing somebody else in a game setting is different.”
Kennesaw State coach Colby Tilley: “We played probably about as good as we could play. North Carolina has such a great team, and (Hatchell) was very good to us in that she played everybody sparingly and she let them all get in the game.”
Breland: “I think we were game-ready today. I’m looking forward to us giving our all and trying to make it to the Final Four. We’ve just got to put our heart and pride into it and just get it done. We have the talent to do it. The ACC Tournament really said it all for me, being able to play those four games and produce. I was dead-tired just like my teammates, but at this point in the season it’s not about how much you have in you, but how much you’re willing to give. ACC was all heart. I was hurting and my legs were gone but that drove me.”
Lucas: “We didn’t really want to be bullies out there. This game has definitely been beneficial. It helped us get out the cobwebs going into the NCAA Tournament. It feels like we just got here not too long ago. This has been a wonderful experience.”
What does it all mean?
That the Tar Heels are looking great for their NCAA appearance, the particulars of which they’ll find out Monday night. And that Kennesaw State got a nice check along with some excellent video to study heading into next season.
Stars of the game
Play of the game
Lucas’ layup on a behind-the-back pass from Breland to make it 82-43 with 9:08 to go.
UNC leads 3-0.
UNC: Won 1.
KSU: Lost 3.
UNC in NCAA Tournament.
KSU in 2011-12 season opener.