ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- Italee Lucas gave the nation's top 3-point shooting team a dose of her long-range game.
Lucas sank four 3-pointers among her 22 points as North Carolina outlasted Fresno State 82-68 in the first round of the NCAA tournament Saturday.
Three double-digit seeds provided the fireworks on the opening day of the women's NCAA tournament. ESPN's women's college basketball team wraps up Day 1. Story
"It's a good thing I did [hit some 3s] to balance them out because if they kept on hitting 3s and we were scoring 2s, it would have been a closer game," Lucas said.The Tar Heels (27-8) will play fourth-seeded Kentucky (25-8) Monday night. The Wildcats surived a scare from 13th-seeded Hampton, winning 66-62 in overtime.The 12th-seeded Bulldogs (25-8) have never won an NCAA tournament game yet gave the fifth-seeded Tar Heels all they could handle for 30 minutes thanks to their long-range shooting, but eventually were done in by North Carolina's size and strength and probably Albuquerque's mile-high altitude, too."We knew they were going to take a lot of 3s to try and compensate for their size. They couldn't really go inside because of our big players," Lucas said. "For a little while it was a back and forth 3-point game, but overall you have to have some size inside to win a big game."Bulldogs senior Jaleesa Ross sank four 3-pointers but missed 16 more, leaving her with 389 3s for her career, three shy of the national record held by Kansas State's Laurie Koehn."Their length was a bit of a challenge for us," Ross said. "I didn't focus too much on being frustrated, they weren't going in but, the more we worked it, the more my teammates got shots. I took a couple of rush shots I shouldn't have taken. Of course, I wanted to make as many as possible."In all, the Bulldogs fired up 50 3-pointers, a record at The Pit, and they sank 14 of them for a 28 percent clip, a little below their season average of 34.2 percent. They only hit seven 2-point baskets.Hayley Munro led Fresno State, which had won 10 straight, with 15 points and Ross and Rosie Moult each scored 14. Chay Shegog added 12 points for the Tar Heels and Jessica Breland finished with 10 points in limited minutes.Behind Ross's two quick 3-pointers, the Bulldogs raced to a 14-5 lead in the first four minutes.Tar Heels coach Sylvia Hatchell called a timeout, after which North Carolina responded with a 16-2 run, scoring the last nine points while Fresno State point guard Taylor Thompson was on the bench after running into a screen at fullspeed.By the time she returned four minutes later, the Bulldogs were trailing 21-16. With Thompson back in the lineup, however, the Bulldogs settled down and caught up. They went ahead on Moult's 3-pointer that made it 26-25.Although the Tar Heels exploited their size advantage in the paint with 6-foot-5 Shegog and 6-6 Waltiea Rolle clogging the middle, grabbing rebounds and even coming out to defend the arc, the Bulldogs starting sinking their 3-pointers.Moult and Farley each sank a pair and Ross's third 3 brought Fresno State to 40-36 at the break.At that point, Ross was 3 for 7 and the record seemed within her reach, but she made just 1 of 13 after halftime."We knew she was going to put up a lot of shots," Tierra Ruffin-Pratt said. "But I'm used to guarding the best player. ... So it wasn't really a challenge. We just tried to keep her from getting seven 3s. We tried to keep her from getting her 2,000 points, too, but we weren't able to that."Ross finished her career with 2,002 points.The Tar Heels opened the second half on a 7-0 run, with five of the points coming from Breland, who played just seven minutes in the high altitude.Breland missed all of last season while fighting Hodgkin's lymphoma, a type of cancer that attacks the immune system. One of her chemotherapy drugs damaged her lungs."The first half, she was struggling," Hatchell said. "The first few minutes of the game, I had to take her out because was bent over double and she couldn't breathe. When you run and jog, you get your second wind. And it sort of kicked in a little bit. In the second half, she was much, much better."Hatchell said she thought the altitude ultimately affected the Bulldogs more."They normally would have made some of those shots that they missed," she said.The Bulldogs pulled to 47-44 but never got any closer because their 3-pointers kept rattling off the iron."They got too many transition opportunities, too many second tries, too many free throws," Bulldogs coach Adrian Wiggins said. "We just didn't get the breaks we needed to. We started fast, made some shots, they weathered the storm well."