No. 15 North Carolina 110, North Florida 41
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
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
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
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
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.