DeGraffenreid, Lucas drop 14 each as Tar Heels top Western Carolina

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- North Carolina coach Sylvia Hatchell was pleased with the Tar Heels' fast start in their season opener Friday night. She just wants them to keep it up for the whole game.

Cetera DeGraffenreid and Italee Lucas each scored 14 points and No. 4 North Carolina beat Western Carolina 90-56 in the opening round of the Women's Preseason National Invitation Tournament.

Jessica Breland added 12 points for the Tar Heels, who opened with a 23-2 run and led 57-32 at halftime. They shot 50 percent.

North Carolina extended its lead to 30 on Breland's 3-pointer with just over 12 minutes remaining, but Hatchell felt her team relaxed after its impressive start.

"We can't just go on cruise control like that," she said. "We've got to keep playing, and as I substitute we've got to be able to keep the intensity level."

DeGraffenreid had a career-high eight steals and matched a career best with seven assists.

"It's our first game and I guess everybody was just excited to get out and play," DeGraffenreid said of the opening surge. "I guess we wanted to go out and prove that we're a team that's going to full-court press you."

North Carolina will face Virginia Commonwealth in the tournament quarterfinals Sunday at the Dean Smith Center, where it's playing this season while Carmichael Auditorium is remodeled. The Tar Heels, who have won 21 straight games in Chapel Hill and 68 consecutive non-conference home games, are 19-9 all-time at the venue.

Brooke Johnson scored 13 points and Lauren Powell had 12 for Western Carolina (0-1). The Lady Catamounts turned the ball over on their first three possessions and 18 times in the first half, and shot just 31.2 percent.

"We knew that the first 4 to 5 minutes were going to be rough," coach Kellie Harper said. "Their intensity, their style of play is so hard to duplicate in practice.

"We had six practice guys trying to be North Carolina this week."

The Tar Heels opened with eight quick points. Then, following the Lady Catamounts' first field goal, they put together a 15-0 run before the 15-minute mark.

North Carolina made 10 of 16 3-pointers but only managed a narrow 46-43 rebounding edge.