Italee Lucas scored 22 points and Jessica Breland added 18, helping fifth-seeded North Carolina hold off No. 4 seed Kentucky, 86-74, in the second round of the NCAA tournament in Albuquerque, N.M.
The Tar Heels (27-8) used their superior size to trump the Wildcats’ quickness.
North Carolina will face Stanford on Saturday in Spokane in the round of 16.
The Tar Heels reached the round of 16 one year after going one-and-out in the NCAA tournament without Breland, who missed last season while fighting cancer.
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The Wildcats were led by Victoria Dunlap’s 23 points. Kentucky, which hasn’t beaten North Carolina in five tries, finished 25-9 a year after reaching the round of eight.
North Carolina’s superior size produced a dominance on the defensive glass that led to countless transition baskets. The Tar Heels outrebounded Kentucky, 55-31.
The Tar Heels were 21-for-22 on free throws in the second half to fend off Kentucky’s comeback hopes.
At Stanford 75, St. John’s 49: Nnemkadi Ogwumike scored 22 points, little sister Chiney added 13 points and 12 rebounds and the top-seeded Cardinal (31-2) overcame a slow start to beat the ninth-seeded Red Storm (22-11).
Stanford captured its school-record 63rd consecutive victory at Maples Pavilion, capping a perfect run by the seniors on their home floor for their careers – the first group in school history to accomplish that feat.
Centhya Hart scored 15 points for St. John’s.