No. 15 UNC rolls past North Florida 110-41
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP)—At times, Jessica Breland looked like her old self by confidently knocking down a turnaround jumper or pulling down one-handed rebounds in traffic. There were also reminders that North Carolina’s fifth-year senior will need some time to get all the way back after missing last season.
Still, with her Hodgkin’s lymphoma in remission, being out on the court again for a real game was a big step.
Breland had eight points and 11 rebounds in her return to the lineup and the 15th-ranked Tar Heels beat North Florida 110-41 in the opener for both teams Friday.
It was Breland’s first official game since a second-round NCAA tournament loss to Purdue in 2009. In this one, the preseason all-Atlantic Coast Conference pick had 10 rebounds by halftime but finished just 3 for 9 from the field in 21 minutes.
“I feel like I need to get in the gym and shoot right now,” she said. “I feel kind of down on myself because in any other game when we start ACC, I can’t have like games like this. I know that and I know my teammates need me and I need to play a lot better game.”
Italee Lucas scored 21 points for the Tar Heels, who used a 10-0 spurt late in the first half to blow the game open on the way to their 10th straight season-opening victory. North Carolina led 46-19 at the break and pushed that margin to 72 points after halftime.
Behind Breland and Chay Shegog (14 rebounds), the Tar Heels also took a 65-33 edge on the boards against the undersized Ospreys of the Atlantic Sun Conference.
Breland missed her first shot, a short jumper from the left corner that rattled out barely 15 seconds into the game. She got on the board a few minutes later, taking a pass from Lucas off an offensive rebound and scoring on a short putaway in the lane at the 15:53 mark of the opening half.
“I think that was a huge emotional lift for them,” North Florida coach Mary Tappmeyer said of Breland’s return.
Clearly, it will take Breland a little time to knock off the rust. She confidently knocked down a turnaround shot over Margaret Bell in the lane in the first half, only to airball a transition layup midway through the second half with her team holding a huge lead.
Breland had 14 points and 11 rebounds in just 13 minutes of a preseason win against Carson-Newman earlier this week.
“She’s still getting the cobwebs out,” UNC coach Sylvia Hatchell said. “At times she’s looked really good and the same thing in practice. It’ll get there. I don’t have any doubt of that. This was really an off night for her, even in how she’s been practicing and playing in the other exhibition games.”
Lucas made five 3-pointers to lead the Tar Heels in scoring, while Shegog, She’la White and Waltiea Rolle each added 11 points.
Leading 23-16 with about 8 minutes left in the first half, the Tar Heels ran off 10 straight points before Kim Baker’s basket ended the spurt at the 3:53 mark. But North Florida didn’t manage another field goal in the half, with the Tar Heels scoring the final seven points—including Breland’s turnaround shot— for the 46-19 lead on Lucas’ layup a few seconds before the horn.
Brittany Kirkland scored 15 points to lead North Florida, which fell to 0-8 against Atlantic Coast Conference opponents.