John Jarrard Foundation Benefit Concert
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — Italee Lucas shrugged off her barrage of successful jump shots. She might have been the only one unimpressed.
Lucas scored 23 of her 28 points in the first half to help No. 7 North Carolina beat No. 20 Georgia Tech 89-78 on Wednesday night.
"Italee Lucas was unbelievable in the first half," Georgia Tech coach MaChelle Joseph said. "That’s one of the best first halves of play I think I’ve ever seen a guard put on (as far as) a shooting display. She was amazing. I knew she could shoot the basketball, but I didn’t realize she could shoot it as well as she did."
Cetera DeGraffenreid and She’la White added 13 points apiece for the Tar Heels (12-1, 1-0 Atlantic Coast Conference), who won their league opener for the 15th time in the last 16 seasons.
Deja Foster, Sasha Goodlett and Alex Montgomery scored 15 points each to lead Georgia Tech (13-3, 0-1 ACC), which lost to North Carolina for the 14th time in the teams’ last 15 meetings. Brigitte Ardossi added 12 points for the Yellow Jackets, whose eight-game winning streak ended.
Lucas shot 7-for-8 from the floor, including 3-for-4 on 3-pointers, and made 6 of 7 free throws to help the Tar Heels race out to a 50-26 halftime lead.
She ignited North Carolina’s 24-5 half-closing run with a 9-0 spurt of her own, scoring on a four-point play, a 3-pointer and a pull-up jumper in a 90-second span.
"I guess I was just feeling it," said Lucas, who finished one point shy of her career high.
While Lucas scored 17 points in the final 11 minutes of the first half, the Yellow Jackets struggled.
Georgia Tech went without a field goal for the final five minutes of the period, turning over the ball on seven consecutive possessions during one stretch late in the half. The Yellow Jackets committed 17 of their 22 turnovers in the first half.
"I didn’t think we played hard, and I didn’t think we played smart," Joseph said. "Carolina is the type of team that if you don’t play hard and you don’t play smart, they’re going to exploit you. That’s exactly what happened."
The Yellow Jackets cut into the lead in the second half, but they couldn’t trim it to fewer than 13 points until less than a minute remained in the game.
North Carolina shot 52 percent from the floor, the best by a Georgia Tech opponent this season, in advance of its trip to top-ranked Connecticut on Saturday.
"I don’t think anyone is expecting us to beat them, except maybe us," North Carolina coach Sylvia Hatchell said. "We’re going to go up there and play like we’ve been playing."