Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Support UNC women's basketball team

As printed in the Chapel Hill Herald on December 30th, 2006:

Two Saturdays ago I attended a men's basketball game against UNC-Asheville at the Dean Dome, took a half-hour break and then went to a women's game against South Carolina State at Carmichael Auditorium. Even though I attended about 95 percent of the men's home games while I was a student and about half of the women's games, this was the first time I had ever gone to both on the same day. So how did they stack up in close proximity? Frankly, I enjoyed the women's game a lot more.

That's probably a good thing since in my first year of post-studentdom I'm not likely to get into a lot of men's games without breaking the bank.

Like the men's team, our women's team this year is fast-paced, exciting and ranked in the top five in the country. Unlike at the Dean Dome, women's tickets are generally easy to get, inexpensive and universally close to the court.

Coach Sylvia Hatchell is truly underrated in the Carolina community. She has more than 700 wins in her coaching career and will likely end up with more than Dean Smith by the time she retires. She does it with the same understated humility that Roy Williams does, and it's a shame that Tar Heel enthusiasts don't love her as much as they love him.

Ivory Latta is the most electrifying basketball player in the country, male or female, college or pro. I have never seen an athlete who so visibly loves playing the game and does it with so much enthusiasm.

Last year she won several national awards. It seems less likely that she'll do it this year but that's just because she's such an unselfish player and isn't putting up the scoring totals that players usually need to get that kind of honor. Hopefully the voters will see she's the best player in the country regardless of the numbers.

This team does not start and end with Ivory Latta though. For instance, in their biggest game so far this year, against Tennessee, junior Erlana Larkins really stepped up with a star performance inside that led the team to victory. She is one of the most improved players on the team this year and will be key down low as the team enters ACC play.

Along with Latta and Larkins, Camille Little is the team's third finalist for the Naismith Player of the Year award. She is an aggressive player with a multifaceted game who can score, rebound, and steal with the best of them.

The rest of the starting lineup for the Heels includes sophomore Rashanda McCants, much improved from her freshman year, and LaToya Pringle, a force inside who leads the team in blocks.

The team also has a strong bench. Heather Claytor is the team's best pure outside shooter, freshman Jessica Breland appears to be a future star both offensively and defensively, and Alex Miller compensates for her small size by playing so hard that I'm always worried she's going to get hurt.

Just like in men's basketball, there's an ACC coach whom I absolutely despise and want to see the Tar Heels destroy.

It is not, however, Duke coach Gail Goestenkors. After all, Duke has not beaten UNC in its last five attempts. And that's not going to change this year either. It's hard for me to harbor too much animosity toward an inferior program.

It's Maryland coach Brenda Frese who has earned my wrath, so much that I am going to go to the UNC game at Maryland next month just to yell at her.

The most exasperating sporting event I went to in 2006 was UNC's home game against Maryland. That woman's complaining to the refs makes Mike Krzyzewski look docile. She absolutely should have been double t'd and ejected based on her behavior during that game. But she was effective, I'll grant her that.

Even though Maryland fouled UNC players pretty much every play of the second half, the calls went in the Terps' favor. Right to the last play of the game when Ivory Latta was assaulted on a shot to tie the game and the whistle didn't blow. Frese reminds me of Ann Coulter.

OK, I'm working myself into a frenzy and need to calm down. Bottom line, more people need to attend women's basketball games. There is a home game this afternoon at 2 p.m. against Tennessee Tech. You should go. This outstanding team deserves your support.

Other key upcoming home games include Jan. 15 against Connecticut and Feb. 8 against Duke. It would also be great to fill up Cameron with Tar Heel fans for the Duke away game on Feb. 25.

I fully anticipate that on April 2 and 3, the UNC men's and women's teams will both bring home national championships. I hope they'll do it with the equal support of the Chapel Hill community.

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