Jessica Breland leads North Carolina past Miami

GREENSBORO, N.C. -- Jessica Breland knocked down enough jumpers and stuck back enough misses to give North Carolina another shot at its most hated rival.

Breland had a season-high 28 points and 10 rebounds, and the 19th-ranked Tar Heels coasted into the Atlantic Coast Conference championship game by routing No. 10 Miami 83-57 in a semifinal Saturday.

"Jessica Breland was just unreal," coach Sylvia Hatchell said.

Cetera DeGraffenreid and Krista Gross added 14 points apiece for sixth-seeded North Carolina (25-7), which shot nearly 47 percent to win the day's only matchup of ranked women's teams.

Now the Tar Heels and Duke (No. 7 ESPN/USA Today, No. 8 AP), the top seed, will play Sunday for the second time in eight days. The rivals will meet in the championship for the seventh time since 2000.

North Carolina advanced to the final for the 16th time and first since they won their most recent title in 2008 -- the last time they faced the Blue Devils in the tournament. Duke and North Carolina split their season series, with each team winning on its home floor.

"It's Carolina and Duke. ... Yeah, we don't like them," a grinning DeGraffenreid said. "They beat us last time, so I guess we have a bad taste in our mouth from that."

Riquna Williams had 21 points and ACC player of the year Shenise Johnson had 19 points and 14 rebounds for the second-seeded Hurricanes (27-4). Morgan Stroman added 10 points for Miami, which had won seven straight but didn't get closer than 11 in the second half.

"They dismantled us," Miami coach Katie Meier said. "They did it very maturely. They did it very athletically. They did it very smartly. They did it very physically. And they did it with finesse as well. They really just absolutely were awesome tonight."

Breland was 13 of 22 and finished three points shy of her career high of 31 set against Oklahoma in 2008. The fifth-year senior made an inspirational return to the team after sitting out last season to fight Hodgkin's lymphoma.

"I was more surprised that she missed a turnaround fadeaway 15-footer than I was when she made those unbelievable, timely ... baskets," Meier said.

Italee Lucas added 12 points for North Carolina, which will try to become the lowest-seeded team to win the ACC tournament and the first to win four games in four days.

"Even if you didn't originally hate Duke, as soon as you put on this jersey, you have to," Gross said. "It's something that comes to you. So I think after beating them at home and losing to them there, we want to beat them even more now. Especially in the championship game. That would be the sweetest revenge."

Until now, the high point of the Tar Heels' season was a dramatic 62-60 win over their Tobacco Road rivals. A 12-point loss to the Hurricanes a week later started a four-game losing streak that they snapped with a win over Clemson in the first round.

A Miami team that led the ACC with an average of 80 points was held in check by a determined group of Tar Heels that forced 19 turnovers, built a 47-35 rebounding advantage and kept Johnson bottled up just long enough to build a huge lead. Johnson, who averages nearly 20 points, was 6 of 20 from the field after missing nine of her first 10 attempts.

As a result, the Hurricanes -- who spent much of their quarterfinal win over North Carolina State trying to protect a huge lead -- had the tables turned in the first ACC semifinal in their history.

The Tar Heels used runs of 13-3 and 14-2 to take control of the game by halftime, and went up by double figures to stay on DeGraffenreid's layup with 3 1/2 minutes left in the first half. During a stretch of roughly 11 1/2 minutes, the Hurricanes managed only three field goals -- all 3-pointers by Williams.

"They made all the right reads," Johnson said. "They're very long, very physical. It's very tough to play in their zone. They tip every pass. They block every shot. They force you to settle for 3s."