Tar Heels sink Pirates
With just less than a minute to play in the North Carolina women’s basketball 76-67 win against East Carolina, the Pirates were within four points of upsetting the No.17 Tar Heels.
But as the shot clock wound down on what would be one of North Carolina’s last possessions, senior guard Tierra Ruffin-Pratt received the ball at the 3-point arc, squared up and drained a long shot before the buzzer could sound.
Then, at the other end, Ruffin-Pratt added insurance to her team’s seven-point lead by knocking an East Carolina 3-point attempt off course.
“We did some good things when we had to,” coach Sylvia Hatchell said. “But they’re a very good team.”
It wasn’t until the final minute that the Tar Heels were able to secure the win.
East Carolina led UNC by one point at the half, causing the Tar Heels to make some mid-game adjustments in their defense.
ECU shot 43.8 percent from the floor in the first half and scored 32 points. Thirteen of those 32 points were a result of North Carolina’s 12 first-half turnovers.
Though Ruffin-Pratt saved her team in the final minute, she was responsible for six turnovers in the first half.
“A couple of my turnovers came from dead spots on the court, the ball just didn’t come back up,” Ruffin-Pratt said.
The Tar Heels were also hurt again by the absence of Xylina McDaniel and the limited ability of Waltiea Rolle after both sustained ankle injuries earlier in the season.
So after giving up 16 points in the paint in the first half, Hatchell made defensive adjustments to combat the Pirates interior attack.
“It really hurt us not to have Xylina, and Waltiea may be 50 percent,” Hatchell said. “She’s hobbling around and can’t jump on that ankle, so we put (Ruffin-Pratt) inside and that was a gamble. She had a little player on her because she was playing point guard, so we just put her inside and that made a big difference.”
In the first game of the trip to South Carolina, the Tar Heels were able to decisively defeat Coastal Carolina without a strong post presence, but against East Carolina, the task was slightly more difficult.
For the second game in a row, the Tar Heels were forced to play with a smaller lineup. Senior forward Krista Gross was only true post player in the starting lineup.
Though the Pirates were able to keep the game close in the first half, the Tar Heels increased the pressure in the second half to capture the win.
“The difference was we put a lot more pressure on them (in the second half),” Ruffin-Pratt said. “In the beginning they were putting a lot more pressure on us and in the second half we started to attack more and get to the rim more.”