BLACKSBURG, Va. — North Carolina coach Sylvia Hatchell is closing in on 900 career victories, so a milestone of 600 wins would seem like no big deal.
Except the 600 wins have come at North Carolina, making it a very big deal for the veteran coach. She joined Kay Yow of North Carolina State and Debbie Ryan of Virginia as the only coaches to achieve 600 victories with the same ACC program.
Brittany Rountree scored 13 of her 17 points in the second half and Chay Shegog scored 14 as the No. 24 Tar Heels gave Hatchell the milestone victory in their fourth try Thursday night, overcoming a sloppy effort and beating Virginia Tech 56-37.
"When I was eight, nine years old, the University of North Carolina — and Dean Smith had just become the coach — it was the school," Hatchel said after improving to 600-228 with the Tar Heels, and 872-308 overall. "And everything was basketball, basketball, basketball."
Now, she said, Carolina blue dominates the color scheme in her house, her cars, and her clothing.
"It's always been my favorite color," she said.
The blue the Tar Heels had been sporting after their most recent games, though, was more the kind that comes with bruising. In their last game, they suffered their worst loss ever — 86-35 at No. 3 Connecticut, a stunning setback for one of the nation's elite programs.
"It feels good to win again," Hatchell said, noting that nine different players have battled injuries or other issues already this season. She said the team is just starting to come together and get used to playing with each other with an eye on vastly improving as the chemistry comes.
Putting the loss to the Huskies in the past was a chief goal, too, said Krista Gross, who joined the rest of the players in wearing a white T-shirt with Carolina blue lettering that said simply: 600 wins (at sign) Carolina, a gift from former athletic director Dick Badour after the game.
"You don't want to let that linger because that can eat away at you," Gross said of the blowout loss.
The Tar Heels (13-5, 3-2 Atlantic Coast Conference), won despite 19 turnovers and 5-for-14 shooting from the foul line.
It helped that the Hokies (6-13, 2-4) once again played with only six scholarship players. Virginia Tech trailed 25-21 at halftime, but North Carolina opened the second half with a 9-2 run to take control and the Hokies never got closer than seven again. The Tar Heels led by as many as 20.
"It was very similar to a bunch of the other games that we've played," Virginia Tech first-year coach Dennis Wolff said after his team's fourth consecutive loss. "We play hard, it's a struggle offensively and then we get to a point where we hit the wall."
Monet Tellier led the Hokies with 16 points and Porschia Hadley had eight, but Virginia Tech shot just 25 percent from the field.
Rountree hit the first of her three 3-pointers 43 seconds into the second half, sparking the run that gave North Carolina a 34-23 lead.
The Hokies pulled within seven several times, the last at 38-31. The Tar Heels used a 15-2 run to put the game away. Rountree had eight points, including two 3-pointers to start it, and Shegog, from Stafford, Va., had six in the run.
The Tar Heels, playing their second of three consecutive road games, trailed 10-4 before going on a 17-6 run over the next 10 minutes.
Waltiea Rolle had three baskets in the burst and Shegog had two while the Hokies shot 2 for 12 with five of their 10 turnovers.
North Carolina improved to 14-3 against the Hokies, including 4-2 at Cassell Coliseum, where the Tar Heels men's team was to face the Hokies later on Thursday.
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