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March 5, 2011
GREENSBORO, NC - Behind a season-high 28 points and 10 rebounds from senior Jessica Breland, the sixth-seeded North Carolina Tar Heels defeated the second-seeded Miami Hurricanes 83-57 in the ACC Women's Basketball Tournament Saturday afternoon in the Greensboro Coliseum. The 19th-ranked Tar Heels will face top-seeded and seventh-ranked Duke in the championship game Sunday at 1:00 p.m.
"We are excited to be playing for another ACC Championship," said UNC coach Sylvia Hatchell. "Our kids fought hard today. We had good balance. Jessica Breland was just unreal. It was a great team balance."
North Carolina shot 47 percent and outrebounded Miami 47-35 as it avenged a Feb. 13 home loss to the Hurricanes. The Tar Heels took advantage of Miami miscues. UNC outscored the Hurricanes 21-5 on 19 Miami turnovers. UNC held the Hurricanes to 57 points, Miami's lowest point total in 78 games.
Krista Gross (14), Cetera DeGraffenreid (14) and Italee Lucas (12) joined Breland in double-figure scoring for the Tar Heels.
"I want to talk about a really special, awesome basketball team, and that is the North Carolina Tar Heels," Miami coach Katie Meier said. "They dismantled us. They did it very maturely. They did it very athletically. They did it very smartly. They did it very physically. And they did it with finesse as well. They really were just absolutely awesome tonight. Even I had a couple wild moments with Jessica Breland out there. I was more surprised that she missed one than I was when she made those unbelievable timely, timely baskets. It takes a lot to break our spirits, but we were broken by her unbelievable baskets."
After scoring just two points in the first half, Shenise Johnson demonstrated the skills that earned her ACC Player of the Year accolades. The junior guard finished the game with 19 points and a game-high 14 rebounds for her 10th double-double of the year. Fellow ACC first-team performer Riquna Williams notched her 18th 20-point game of the year with a team-high 21 points.
North Carolina, which ended the regular season on a four-game skid, has won three straight games in the conference tournament. UNC has used stingy defense to hold its opponents to 31.5 percent (62-of-197) from the field in tournament action. The Tar Heels improved to 25-7 with the victory and snapped Miami's seven-game winning streak. The Hurricanes dropped to 27-4 on the year.
Game 10 Notes:
North Carolina improved 54-24 all-time in the ACC Women's Basketball Tournament. The Tar Heels have the most tournament wins, and Maryland is second with 46.
UNC extended a two-year run of tournament success by No. 6 seeds, who have won six of their last seven games in the tournament, including NC State's run to the final last year.
Duke advanced with a 74-66 victory over Georgia Tech in the first semifinal. North Carolina and Duke's meeting in Sunday's ACC final will be the teams' seventh title-game meeting in the past 12 years. Overall, the Tar Heels and Blue Devils have met for the championship eight times, starting in 1995. In those meetings, Duke has a 4-3 edge.
North Carolina and Maryland have the most tournament titles, with nine each. Duke is second with six championships.
North Carolina's Krista Gross scored 14 points in 19 minutes, her highest point total since a career-high 16 in a Jan. 3 win over North Carolina Central.
North Carolina held Miami to its lowest point total in 78 games. The last time Miami had fewer points was Jan. 29, 2009, in a 68-42 loss at Georgia Tech. Miami, which came in averaging 80.5 points, is 0-3 this season when held below 60 points.
Miami is 2-7 in the tournament, and Saturday's game was its first appearance beyond the quarterfinals and the first time it played more than one game in a single tournament since its first appearance in 2005.
Shenise Johnson, Miami's All-ACC junior guard, has scored in double figures in 69 consecutive games, a record for active ACC players. The streak started late in Johnson's freshman season, after she was held to five points in a March 1, 2009, game against Maryland to close the regular season.
Johnson and teammate Riquna Williams combined for 40 points in the semifinals and 47 in the quarterfinals.