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For UNC's Teasley, practice makes perfect

GREENSBORO, N.C.-After a dismal performance against Clemson in the quarterfinals of the ACC Tournament Saturday, North Carolina guard Nikki Teasley needed something to spark her for the next game against Virginia. She found it in a most unlikely place - outside her hotel room late Saturday night.

Teasley traveled to a local Greensboro Wal-Mart after the Clemson game and bought two rubber basketballs to shoot around on the court outside her hotel.

"They were on sale for $3.49," Teasley said after her Tar Heels eliminated Virginia in the semifinals yesterday, 67-63. "My two brothers helped me out. The three of us played a two-ball drill."

The late night shooting practice helped Teasley recover from her pitiful game against Clemson, where she went 2-for-14 from the field. When the final buzzer sounded Saturday afternoon, Teasley had contributed only six points and the Tar Heels had barely escaped with a 56-54 win.

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  • But Sunday, with an hour-long evening shoot-around under her belt, Teasley was back in top form. In the first half, she poured in 14 of Carolina's 36 points and grabbed four rebounds.

    "Nikki Teasley was a big problem for us early on," Virginia Coach Debbie Ryan said.

    The Cavaliers, who shot only 40 percent from the floor and 23 percent from three-point range, might have been well served by joining Teasley's hotel shoot-around. Cav guard Telisha Quarles had particular problems from the field, courtesy of Teasley's blazing defensive performance. Quarles attempted 11 shots but only managed four points on one field goal and two free throws.

    "I thought that she was forcing her shots in the game," Ryan said. "She doesn't want to be perceived as a ballhog or anything, but there were a few times that she needed to kick the ball out more."

    After Teasley scorched her man-to-man defensive scheme, Ryan moved to a zone defense 10 minutes into the game specifically to temper Teasley's scoring prowess.

    "It stopped Teasley from scoring," Ryan said. "In the beginning of the game, she seemed to be the only offense they had."

    The zone prevented Teasley from scoring, but it could not stop her from dishing the ball to her teammates. Teasley delivered seven assists, two more than the Cavaliers had as a team.

    "Nikki finds me wherever I am on the court," said Tar Heel forward LaQuanda Barksdale, who tallied 17 points and six rebounds.

    Before Teasley concentrated on handing out assists in the second half, Barksdale, the ACC's top scorer, had registered only two points. But when Teasley began to get her teammates involved as the Cav defense collapsed on her, Barksdale hit for 13 points.

    "In the first half, I was very aggresive," Teasley said. "In the second half, I felt like I didn't need to score that much."

    After the exhilarating victory, Teasley ran to center court and bear hugged Heels Coach Sylvia Hatchell so tightly that the coach dropped the cup in her hand, spilling water all over the court. As television cameras rolled, Hatchell and the Tar Heels' clutch performer embraced for about a minute before Teasley turned to the pro-Carolina crowd to blow kisses of appreciation.

    "Coach Hatchell has really stuck by me [this season] and we have became close and talked a lot more," said Teasley, who took a leave of absence from the team earlier this year because of personal reasons. "She's been by my side like a mother and I love her to death."

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