In an almost exhibition-like opener against Howard University, the Tar Heels grabbed an 83-49 victory Friday afternoon in Carmichael Arena.
North Carolina can attribute their first win of the season to certain kind of good luck charm –Hall of Fame Coach Sylvia Hatchell was back on the Tar Heel bench for her 29th season after a battle with Leukemia kept her away from coaching last year.
Junior forward Xylina McDaniel says seeing her coach healthy again was a warm feeling.
“It actually felt like my freshman year all over again,” McDaniel says. “Since we had her for the exhibition games it wasn’t that different, but just being able to have her back brought me back to my freshman year, and that was a good year. It made me happy, it made everybody happy.”
Hatchell says she also feels the familial bond of the team is strong.
“It’s so much fun because they are my reward, and I don’t take it for granted,” Hatchell says. “The times that I’m out there with them, the opportunities I have to be with them, that’s what gets me going everyday.”
Friday’s game was a slow offensive start for both teams, as the Heels had a 4-2 lead after the first five minutes of play. Two ties and four lead changes later, Carolina finally clinched a solid lead late in the first half to end with a 46-24 lead.
Fast breaks were Carolina’s key scoring opportunities in exhibition play, and yet again fueled another high-scoring match and blowout victory. The Heels closed the first half with a 30-8 run over the Bison, after senior Brittany Rountree netted a three-pointer that sparked the team’s momentum.
Allisha Gray led all scorers in the first half with 12 points and nine rebounds, while junior Xylina McDaniel followed with 11 points on 4-7 shooting.
The Howard Bison shot 9-25 in the first half, and had three players in foul trouble with three penalties apiece.
Carolina’s scoring intensity continued into the second half, as senior guard Latifah Coleman’s three steals continued to stifle Howard’s offense.
A host of missed lay-ups from Carolina and big shots for Howard cut the lead to less than 30 with 6:21 to play, but a quick timeout call from Coach Hatchell allowed for the break her squad needed to solidify the lopsided win.
Four Tar Heels finished in double digits in scoring, as McDaniel finished with 16, Gray with 19, freshman Jamie Cherry with 12, and Rountree with 10 points. Senior forward Cheyenne Brown was the only Lady Bison to score in double digits, finishing with 14 points and 10 rebounds before fouling out of the contest.
North Carolina will take on No. 23 UCLA at home Sunday at 2 p.m.