Kentucky's Dunlap, UNC's Breland seek quick starts
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP)
Both North Carolina and Kentucky got off to slow starts in the NCAA tournament, heading into the locker room in their first-round games with their star players stuck on 2 points in just seven minutes of playing time.
Wildcats forward Victoria Dunlap, the SEC player of the year, was plagued by foul trouble and, according to her coach, a lack of focus. Tar Heels forward Jessica Breland, whose lungs were damaged by chemotherapy drugs while undergoing cancer treatment last year, was affected by the altitude.
Both had big second halves. Dunlap finished with 13 points and 12 rebounds as Kentucky (25-8) held off Hampton in overtime, and Breland came within one board of posting a double-double as North Carolina (26-8) pulled away from Fresno State.
They'll square off against each other Monday night at The Pit with a spot in the round of 16 at stake, and both of their coaches are expecting to see entirely different sides of the fluctuating forwards.
Wildcats coach Matthew Mitchell said he sat Dunlap down Sunday and exhorted her to refocus and provide senior leadership to set the right tone.
Tar Heels coach Sylvia Hatchell said Breland would warm up differently for this game after having a hard time adjusting to Albuquerque's mile-high elevation.
''I think both schools, that 4 position, which is a key position for both schools, didn't have their normal games yesterday,'' Hatchell said.
''I think both of those kids are key in the game,'' added Mitchell.
Breland missed all of last season while undergoing treatment for Hodgkin's lymphoma, a type of cancer that attacks the immune system, and one of her chemotherapy drugs damaged her lungs, which sometimes makes it hard to catch her breath. Add the altitude and that's a recipe for trouble.
''Also, I have a little cold,'' Breland revealed Sunday.
She's going to work up a sweat in warmups, she said, so that her second wind comes in the first half.
The Tar Heels withstood Breland's slow start and still led Fresno State 40-36 at halftime on their way to an 82-68 win. Hatchell said the Tar Heels didn't panic over Breland's slow start because they'd grown accustomed to sharing the burden until Breland found her rhythm. They had to play all of last season without her, and she's had an up-and-down senior year with her cancer in remission but her stamina inconsistent.
''It's not anything new,'' Hatchell said. ''It just gives us an extra advantage when she is at her best like she was in the ACC tournament.''
The Wildcats also know how to deal with inconsistent energy and effort from Dunlap.
''I showed them the film and was very honest with them and said, 'This would have been a shame to go out like this, Victoria Dunlap,' because she was very lethargic,'' Mitchell recounted. ''And I expect her to bounce back with a spirited effort tomorrow.''
Dunlap scored 10 points and pulled down 11 boards after halftime.
''I think Vic needs to get herself in a spot where she's going to play with some poise on offense and play with some tremendous tenacity on defense - and she didn't do either of those things yesterday early in the game,'' Mitchell said.
Dunlap said she was going to ''just be more focused and in tune ... and not picking up silly fouls.''
The Wildcats are counting on their pressure defense to carry them far like it did last year, when the Cats reached the regional final. But Hatchell said the Tar Heels had seen that style in the ACC from teams like Georgia Tech and Duke.
''It could be a horse race for the full game, full 40 minutes,'' Hatchell said. ''It could be a horse race because we've got depth and we're not going to slow down.''
And that's music to Mitchell.
''I think where we are right now offensively, that might help us a little bit to get an open-court game because it's very disappointing how we played in the halfcourt yesterday,'' he said. ''We just had so many people standing around and watching the ball.''