CHAPEL HILL — North Carolina coach Sylvia Hatchell emphatically repeated this refrain on Thursday: “A lot of people are overlooking Virginia – we’re not.”
Hatchell’s point, directed to anyone within in ear shot but mostly at her team, was that the No. 2-ranked Tar Heels have a highly anticipated game scheduled against top-ranked Connecticut on Monday, though they would need to hold off a “good” Virginia team before it was kosher to think about anyone else.
No statement was truer on Friday when the Heels (17-0 overall, 3-0 ACC) needed an efficient and commanding performance to dispatch No. 14 Virginia, 103-74, before 4,010 at the Smith Center.
After falling behind in the first half, the Heels quickly caught up and dominated the second half, scoring the most points in the program’s history against the Cavaliers (14-3, 1-1).
The Heels were led by senior forward Rashanda McCants, who scored 16 of her team-high 23 points in the second half.
But she had some help. Freshman Shay Shegog scored a season-high 17 points, while sophomore guard Italee Lucas chipped in 16 points and eight assists.
Virginia junior point guard Monica Wright led the Cavaliers with a game-high 24 points. Senior Lyndra added 21.
The Heels have now won 17 consecutive regular-season ACC contest and 23 straight over conference opponents.
They have also won 31 consecutive games at home.
With a 44-31 advantage in the all-time series, the Heels have won 13 straight over the Cavaliers. Virginia last posted a victory in Charlottesville in 2003.
For the first time since the 1981-82 season, these two teams will only play once during the regular season, a significant note considering a head-to-head meeting could factor in the conference tournament seeding process.
And with that bit of business in hand, the Heels can turn their attention to top-ranked UConn. Both teams could enter Monday’s night game undefeated and provide the Triangle its first No. 1 vs. No. 2 contest since 2006-07 when the Heels and Duke met on Feb. 8.
A Heather Claytor 3-pointer gave the Heels their first lead of the game with about eight minutes remaining in the first half. They would extend that lead by attacking the Cavaliers inside, with freshman Chay Shegog scoring on three consecutive layups.
UNC sophomore point guard Cetera DeGraffenfied (14 points), a player never afraid to drive the lane, added two more layups and the Heels found themselves ahead 37-31 in the first half.
A smooth jump shot by freshman Shela White with three seconds splashed through the nets and sent the Heels into halftime with a 43-34 lead, having survived Virginia’s inside-out attack and 10 first half points by Wright.