SMITH CENTER/CHAPEL HILL UNC is home against another team from the Big South Conference, and as is usual in such games the Tar Heels are heavily favored.
They’re coming off kind of an odd week, in which they lost by six points at Michigan State in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge and then came back to beat previously unbeaten St. John’s by 10.
And somehow the voters in the Associated Press poll dropped them seven spots, all the way from No. 4 to their current No. 11.
The Michigan State game was the Tar Heels’ only loss while Radford (1-5) is winless against Division I opposition.
Radford has won games in this series before, but none of those was in the past 20 years. UNC is 3-0 against the Big South this season. It turns out pretty much as expected in the end, as the Highlanders scrap but UNC wins 74-48.
The Tar Heels get off to the expected quick start, scoring the game’s first 12 points and looking like they’re going to win by about 80.
But the visitors fight back. With five quick 3-pointers – actually five of the Highlanders’ six for the game – Radford takes its only lead of the game at 17-16 on a 3-pointer from Ashley Buckhannon.
The Tar Heels recover to go up 34-29 at halftime.
And a 15-3 run to start the second half pretty much puts the game away, although UNC is never up by 20 until Waltiea Rolle’s layup from Cetera DeGraffenreid with 8:22 left makes it 57-37.
DeGraffenreid leads all scorers with 15 points, adding seven assists and six steals. Rolle chips in 11 including 5-for-5 from the floor, while Italee Lucas also scores 11.
Brooke McElroy leads Radford with 13 points.
The Tar Heels shoot 56.6 percent from the floor to the visitors’ 30.8 and win the rebound battle 43-24, although turnovers are even at 26 each.
They said it …
UNC coach Sylvia Hatchell: “We started off good, but sometimes I have more confidence in my players than they have in themselves. I started substituting really freely, and maybe I made a mistake by substituting too much too early. … I thought their 3-point shooting in the first half made a difference, and they had 17 points in the first half off our turnovers. But I thought we settled down and played better in the second half. We’re still young and I’m still experimenting with people. The best thing is out of 30 baskets we had 22 assists.”
Radford coach Tajama Abraham Ngongba: “I thought our team fought hard. I thought they played confident. We just have to take care of the ball better. Carolina’s a good team that’s going to create turnovers in their transition game. But I’m very proud of the way our players fought. They never quit. I thought (the quick comeback) showed incredible courage and fortitude. … We talked about outworking Carolina and being confident.”
DeGraffenreid: “We probably relaxed too much. It was (12)-0 and then all of a sudden they were up by one point. We backed off of them instead of going after them like we did the first few minutes. Being a young team we are learning as we go along. One of the things we need to fix is finishing off something like that.”
What does it all mean?
That the Tar Heels are still on track with another easy win against the Big South.
Stars of the game
Play of the game
She’la White’s 3-pointer with 8:59 left in the first that gave the Tar Heels the lead for good at 20-17.
UNC leads 6-3.
UNC: Won 2.
Radford: Lost 1.
Radford at Virginia Commonwealth, Saturday, 4 p.m.
UNC vs. Gardner-Webb, Sunday, 3 p.m.