UNC Women's Basketball beats Appalachian State, 80

Rookie Atkinson shines with 15 points, seven rebounds, five assists, three blocks and three steals.

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. - Led by a season-high 15 points from sophomore forward Nikita Bell, the North Carolina women's basketball team defeated visiting Appalachian State 80-44 Thursday evening at the Dean E. Smith Center. The 16th-ranked Tar Heels improved to 5-1, while ASU fell to 1-4.

Joining Bell in double figures for UNC was freshman La'Tangela Atkinson, who also tied for the rebounding lead with seven and added five assists, three blocks and three steals in 23 minutes. Atkinson, who on Monday was named ACC Rookie of the Week, continues to lead the Tar Heels in scoring and rebounding with averages of 13.5 points and 7.7 boards per game.

Forward Jessica Jank and guard Kiki Conyers, both freshmen, led the Mountaineers with 10 points each. Junior guard Jaymi Wilson paced ASU with seven rebounds and added eight points. "I thought we played hard against a good team," first-year Appalachian State coach Adrienne Shuler said. "We made some mistakes, but we played well in the first half."

ASU held an early lead, up 8-4 after a basket by Conyers with 16:45 on the first-half clock. At that point, senior forward Jennifer Thomas scored back-to-back buckets for UNC and Atkinson hit another to put the Tar Heels up 10-8 at the 14:59 mark. They would hold the lead for the rest of the game, with the final margin of 36 points equaling the largest of the game.

UNC outrebounded the visitors 50-31 and totaled 10 blocks, nearly equal to the season total of 11 with which Carolina entered the game. Junior forward Candace Sutton led the way with four. Every available Tar Heel player saw at least 11 minutes on the court.

"We got on the boards well and I thought our transition game was good," UNC coach Sylvia Hatchell said. "I thought at times we looked sluggish, like maybe we're still jetlagged. And all but two of our players have exams tomorrow, so I know their minds are on their school work. "

The Tar Heels arrived back in Chapel Hill Tuesday evening after playing in the Rainbow Wahine Classic in Hawaii over Thanksgiving. Their next game is on Sunday, when they host Old Dominion at Carmichael Auditorium at 2 p.m.

Because of an ice storm that knocked out power in much of the Chapel Hill area and made driving treacherous, the status of the game was in doubt until midday. But Appalachian State was able to make the trip and the game went on before a crowd of 328. Thursday's matchup was originally scheduled for Carmichael, but was moved due to NCAA volleyball action Thursday evening in that facility. The win boosted the UNC women's basketball record at the Smith Center to 12-8.

Appalachian State opens Southern Conference play on Sunday with a game at Georgia Southern. "They're going to beat some people this season," Hatchell said. "I think they play like Adrienne did - they play hard and always hustle. I recruited her when I first came to UNC and I've known her a long time. She'll do a great job there."

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