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North Carolina pulls away early, cruises past Wake Forest

CHAPEL HILL, N.C -- After a disappointing loss, Italee Lucas wasn't about to let North Carolina get off to another slow start.

Lucas scored 16 of her 20 points in the first half as the Tar Heels (No. 11 ESPN/USA Today, No. 10 AP) beat Wake Forest 71-56 on Thursday night.

North Carolina (17-2, 3-1 ACC) never trailed, jumping to a 12-2 lead before the five-minute mark. Lucas had six points before Wake Forest got on the board.

North Carolina coach Sylvia Hatchell said the fast start was crucial to the game's outcome.

"We wanted to come out aggressive on offense and defense," she said. "That's sort of a mentality, a mindset we have, just so we get back to doing what we're known for, going after people. We do a lot better when we're aggressive."

The Tar Heels struggled against No. 2 Connecticut on Monday, allowing the Huskies to jump out to a huge early lead.

The cold-shooting Demon Deacons (10-10, 1-3) never mounted a serious threat to North Carolina, despite holding them scoreless for the final four minutes of the first half, which ended 36-22.

Wake Forest scored six points during that span and added the first two points of the second half, cutting the lead to 36-24.

North Carolina responded with a 9-1 run, sparked by Laura Broomfield's two inside baskets.

Broomfield had a career-high 19 points and added 11 rebounds. She played most of the second half as Jessica Breland sat out the final 20 minutes with what is described as a minor left knee injury. Breland is schedule to have an MRI on Friday.

Broomfield said her performance was an extension of North Carolina's depth.

"You have to bring your 'A' game every day. You never know when it's going to be your turn. You have to bring intensity every game," she said.

Wake Forest outrebounded the bigger Tar Heels 53-51 but was unable to get much offense from those rebounds. Wake coach Mike Petersen praised his team's effort but lamented its slow start and inability to score.

"It's hard when you spot them that [big lead]," he said. "It puts a lot of pressure on your offense. Our focus at the start has not been what it needs to be. We just didn't make enough basketball plays. You can't get 28 offensive rebounds and not cash some of them in. It was our best effort on the road, but we didn't play very good."

Freshman guard Chelsea Douglas led Wake Forest with 16 points, while Secily Ray grabbed nine rebounds. But Wake Forest shot 28 percent from the field, made only 3-of-21 3-pointers and 11-of-24 foul shots.

North Carolina travels to Maryland (No. 14 ESPN/USA Today, No. 15 AP) on Sunday, while Wake Forest hosts Clemson the same day.