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Italee Lucas helps Tar Heels win in first round of tournament

GREENSBORO, N.C. -- Cetera DeGraffenreid got North Carolina running. The shots started falling again for Italee Lucas and rest of the Tar Heels.

Just like that, their losing streak was history.

Lucas scored 14 points and DeGraffenreid was a factor at both ends of the court, helping the 19th-ranked Tar Heels snap a four-game slide and beat Clemson 78-64 on Thursday in the first round of the Atlantic Coast Conference women's basketball tournament.

"This is a new season -- we have four games to go in this season, and then whatever we do in the NCAA tournament," DeGraffenreid said. "So we just look at it as that season is over, and now we have a championship to win."

DeGraffenreid finished with 11 points, eight assists and six steals -- "That's pretty doggone good," coach Sylvia Hatchell said -- for sixth-seeded North Carolina (23-7), which shot nearly 45 percent while turning the Tigers' mistakes into easy points all night long. It opened the game with a 17-4 run and used another big burst that bridged the halves to build a big lead.

Chay Shegog and Jessica Breland added 11 points apiece for the Tar Heels, who were held to a combined 37 percent shooting during their losing streak.

"If you get the ball inside, you're usually going to get good shots" and draw fouls, Hatchell said. "That opens it up for Italee. Everybody knows that she can score and she's going to shoot, but it's a whole lot better and she makes a whole lot more of them when she's open."

Next up for the Tar Heels: No. 14 Florida State, the No. 3 seed, in Friday night's quarterfinals.

Kirstyn Wright had 16 points and 10 rebounds for the 11th-seeded Tigers (10-20), who held a 46-44 rebounding advantage but lost their seventh straight game.

North Carolina, which came to Greensboro and won the ACC tournament every year from 2005-08, entered this year's event in a slump, failing to secure a first-round bye for the second straight year after ending the regular season by losing four in a row. It was 1-4 since it upset Duke on a last-second blocked shot, with the only win a lackluster 60-47 victory at Clemson.

Facing the Tigers again, the Tar Heels thrived in the uptempo, rebound-and-run style that Hatchell has preached.

North Carolina forced 25 turnovers and turned them into 29 points. In particular, DeGraffenreid seemed to pester Clemson by regularly stealing the ball and producing points in transition.

"She's just very quick," Wright said of DeGraffenreid. "She has great ballhandling skills, she pushes the ball up the court and their transition was what really hurt us. She was starting that for them."

The Tar Heels gave themselves plenty of separation with a 15-5 run that started with Breland's jumper in the final seconds of the first half.

"I felt like, when we made a run, she would hit one shot and then they would make a big run," first-year Clemson coach Itoro Coleman said.

That got North Carolina rolling, and it kept going once the second half started. She'la White hit a 3 from the corner to make it 54-39 with 15 minutes left, and Clemson didn't get closer than seven the rest of the way.

Kelia Shelton added 14 points for the Tigers, who haven't beaten North Carolina in the ACC tournament since 2001. Coleman was a star on the Tigers teams that faced the Tar Heels in the championship game every year from 1997-99.