Jessica Breland goes for the ball at half court.
  • Photo by Chelsea Gunter
  • Jessica Breland goes for the ball at half court.

CARMICHAEL ARENA/CHAPEL HILL Sylvia Hatchell sends her UNC women’s basketball team against outside opposition for the first time this year in the Tar Heels’ only exhibition game of the season.

The opponent is the coach’s alma mater, Carson-Newman of the Division II South Atlantic Conference, which has already gotten drubbings from Duke a day earlier and Tennessee last week as veteran coach Dean Walsh looks to get his team ready for lesser opposition. The Eagles went 24-7 and advanced to the second round of their NCAA Tournament last season.

UNC is coming off of — by its own lofty standards — a very forgettable 2009-10 season in which it finished 19-12 and lost in the first round of both the ACC and NCAA Tournaments. But there was a codicil, as sitting out the entire season with Hodgkin’s lymphoma was senior forward and All-America candidate Jessica Breland.

Breland is back and will start tonight, so we’ll all be able to see how well she has recovered. The Tar Heels, ranked No. 15 in the preseason AP poll, will also have two new faces on the roster in freshman guards Latifah Coleman and Shannon Smith.

UNC takes advantage of the visitors’ shell shock at seeing three potential Final Four teams in less than a week, rolling to a 116-27 romp.

UNC freshman Latifah Coleman dribbles up court, getting past Carson-Newmans Amber Blackwell.
  • Photo by Chelsea Gunter
  • UNC freshman Latifah Coleman dribbles up court, getting past Carson-Newman’s Amber Blackwell.

Well, what can be said about a game in which the Tar Heels lead 62-6 at halftime?

It’s 36-0 before the Eagles get their first points on a jumper from Mandy Mendenhall with 8:34 left in the first half.

Italee Lucas leads the Tar Heels with 17 points, while She’la White and freshman Latifah Coleman chipping in 16 each. Breland gets a double-double by scoring 14 points with 11 rebounds in just 13 minutes, while Waltiea Rolle adds 13.

Shannon Depew leads Carson-Newman with six points.

UNC shoots 56.1 percent from the floor to 19.3 for the visitors, wins the rebound battle 60-29 and commits 20 turnovers to Carson-Newman’s 37.

They said it …

Hatchell: “We were hot tonight and they were cold. We made a lot of shots. We’ve been working a lot on our shooting and have been shooting the ball really well in practice so they carried that over. It was good to play against somebody besides our practice guys and go up and down the floor and let everybody play. Carson-Newman is a lot better team than they showed, because they had scored 65 on Duke and 68 on Tennessee. They couldn’t get anything going with their shots tonight and I’m hoping we had something to do with that.

“We’re a lot better than we were last year. We’re looking forward to the season starting. A lot of players have worked really hard on conditioning. Waltiea has got some strength and Ruffin-Pratt is a lot stronger. A lot of them have really made a commitment. Chay has been playing real poised. … We were so young last year without Jessica out there. She makes a big difference with her leadership. She started off stroking it.”

Breland: “I was kind of nervous. Nobody probably noticed it, but I was as nervous as if we were playing Duke or UConn or someone big. I didn’t know what to expect playing out there in front of the fans. It’s kind of a different environment when you’re playing in front of fans and people that support you.”

Lucas: “There’s a lot of motivation with our team. Last year is over with. We’re here now and a way better team than we ever were last season. We’re focusing in on right now and using it as motivation, but we’re going to get better and better as the season goes on.”

What does it all mean?
That the Tar Heels are clicking on all the proverbial cylinders, while the Eagles will be very happy to see a Division II opponent in a few days.

Stars of the game
1. Breland.
2. Lucas.
3. Coleman.

Play of the game
Chay Shegog’s three-point play from White to make it 24-0 with 12:29 left in the first half.

Up next
UNC vs. North Florida, Friday, 4 p.m.
CNC at USC-Aiken, Saturday, 5:30 p.m.

Tar Heel Tierra Ruffin-Pratt shoots past Eagle Shannon Depew.
  • Photo by Chelsea Gunter
  • Tar Heel Tierra Ruffin-Pratt shoots past Eagle Shannon Depew.