UNC will certainly have its biggest non-conference challenge of the women’s basketball season tonight at 7, when the Tar Heels host defending NCAA champion Connecticut at Carmichael Arena.


UConn is ranked No. 2 and the Tar Heels No. 11, and both come in with 16-1 records.

Senior All-America guard Maya Moore, considered one of the best players in the history of women’s college basketball, leads the Huskies in scoring, rebounding and assists.

It’s the seventh straight year in which the two teams have faced off. The all-time series stands at 5-5, but the Huskies have won the last two meetings by a combined 71 points.

“I feel like we have a very talented team and can match up well with them, but they’re UConn,” UNC coach Sylvia

UNC guard Italee Lucas
  • Photo courtesy UNC athletics
  • UNC guard Italee Lucas

Hatchell said. “We’ve got to be mentally tough, we’ve got to be focused, we’ve got to come out and play with a lot of passion and take a lot of pride in the name that’s across the front of our jersey.

“I’m looking forward to it. I’m hoping the place will be sold out, because if we were at UConn it would be. It’s going to be a great game and a great challenge, and I’m looking forward to the opportunity.”

The game is not sold out at post time, but a sellout is considered a possibility.

The Tar Heels are led by their senior trio of guards Italee Lucas and Cetera DeGraffenreid and forward Jessica Breland, who is in her fifth year after sitting out all of last season with Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

“We definitely have to be on our ‘A’ game,” Lucas said. “I think we can beat anybody if we do that. The team looks to the seniors to lead and carry on in our areas, so we were talking about our roles and the fact we have to take control on Monday night. We’re going into UConn with a different focus, definitely.”

Breland was preseason All-ACC despite sitting out all of last season, and has been living up to expectations.

“Defense and focus are going to be important, and every possession is going to matter in this game,” Breland said. “We have to believe in each other and cut down on our turnovers. I think our team is ready. We’ve been learning from our mistakes.”

No. 11 UNC vs. No. 2 Connecticut
[Monday, 7 p.m., Carmichael Arena]

UNC forward Jessica Breland
  • Photo courtesy UNC athletics
  • UNC forward Jessica Breland

Audio: WCHL 1360.
Video: ESPN2.
Records: UNC 16-1; UConn 16-1.
Coaches’ records — UNC: Sylvia Hatchell 847-295, 574-215 at UNC; UConn: Geno Auriemma 751-123 at UConn.
Leading scorers — UNC: Italee Lucas 18.2; UConn: Maya Moore 23.9.
Leading rebounders — UNC: Jessica Breland 8.0; UConn: Maya Moore 7.5.
Assist leaders — UNC: Cetera DeGraffenreid 6.1; UConn: Maya Moore 4.1.