CARMICHAEL AUDITORIUM/CHAPEL HILL UNC is still getting settled into its “new” old home in women’s basketball, and the No. 7 Tar Heels will close out the year against one more underdog opponent.
Today’s visitor is East Tennessee State (4-5), which has been to Chapel Hill eight times before and come up empty every time.
The Bucs are members of the Atlantic Sun Conference, a lower-tier league that doesn’t play football.
ETSU made the move there from the Southern Conference in 2005 after deciding to end its football program. The visitors hang on for a half, but the Tar Heels eventually win 104-65 in their second game in their remodeled arena.
But the Bucs don’t surrender easily, coming out firing up 3-pointers and leading much of the first half.
UNC leads 7-0 on a pair of Cetera DeGraffenreid free throws at 18:39, but the Bucs come back to take the lead at 17-16 on a Siarre Evans 3-pointer at 12:52.
There are three more lead changes and a pair of ties, with the Tar Heels taking the lead for good at 27-25 on Cierra Robertson-Warren’s follow at 7:22. UNC leads 48-35 at halftime.
Italee Lucas leads the Tar Heels with 17 points in their first triple-digit scoring outing of the season. UNC places five in double figures including She’la White (pictured) and DeGraffenreid with 15 points each, Waltiea Rolle with a double-double of 12 points and 11 rebounds, and Martina Wood with 12 points.
TaRonda Wiles leads the Bucs with 23 points, followed by Siarre Evans with 13 points and 10 rebounds and Iesha Robinson with 13 points.
The Tar Heels outshoot the visitors 43.5 percent to 31.0, out-rebound them 72-46 and commit 22 turnovers to 27 for ETSU.
UNC played without center Chay Shegog, who suffered a concussion on Tuesday against Kennesaw State and is not expected to play on Saturday against Winston-Salem State either.
They said it …
UNC coach Sylvia Hatchell: “I thought in the first half we played pretty good but we missed shots. We played pretty good, but we missed shots. We got some good shots, but we missed shots. But we’re getting better. We’re young, but we’re improving as a team. A lot of the kids just need some experience. I love the tempo, but some of our decisions aren’t what they need to be.”
ETSU coach Karen Kemp: “We were hoping to take care of the basketball and try to limit their possessions. I thought we did a pretty good job the first half, but then the second half we didn’t treasure the basketball the first five minutes and they took control. We knew it was going to be a difficult task because they are so much bigger than we are. We just let them get too many second and third opportunities.”
White: “It’s kind of different here (from the Smith Center) so we’re kind of adjusting to that. It’s not going to take long. I think we’re doing well. … I think in the second half we just settled down and started pushing the ball a little more and started finishing. I love the (three-guard starting lineup with Lucas and DeGraffenreid.) It’s hard for anybody to slow us down.”
What does it all mean?
That the Tar Heels can use superior depth to weather an early storm against an outmanned opponent. And that ETSU is going to be pretty tough in the Atlantic Sun.
Stars of the game
Play of the game
Lucas’ 3-pointer to make it 55-39 with 17:55 to go.
UNC leads 11-0.
UNC: Won 6.
ETSU: Lost 2.
UNC vs. Winston-Salem State, Saturday, 2 p.m.
ETSU at USC-Upstate, Monday, 4:30 p.m.