Tar Heel women's basketball defense sti?es Cavaliers

Last season at Virginia, Cavalier guard Ataira Franklin scored 29 points on the Tar Heels in a double-overtime loss to UNC — a stat that was not lost on North Carolina guard Tierra Ruffin-Pratt during Thursday night’s 71-60 win.

“We knew that she was going to come in and try to score and try to take over in the second half when they were down,” Ruffin-Pratt said “We kind of keyed into that from last year’s perspective.”

The Tar Heels held Franklin to just five points. Franklin, who averages 11.9 points per game, also recorded two assists while turning the ball over four times.

UNC (18-1, 6-0) entered Thursday night’s contest leading the nation in steals with 14.9 per game and stayed close to pace against the Cavaliers, converting 14 steals into 32 points.

At halftime, UNC led UVa. 17-0 in points off turnovers.

“They’re big on traps, and they play passing lanes,” Virginia coach Joanne Boyle said. “You get in the paint, they’re great shot blockers. There’s a lot of different ways they can do it.”

On Virginia’s second possession of the game, UNC employed a full-court press, and sprinkled the technique in throughout the first half to make Virginia work to get past the half-court line.

Even when the Cavaliers made it far enough to begin their half-court offense, UNC used double teams to hassle Virginia into 24 turnovers.

It didn’t get any easier for the Cavaliers in the second half, as they opened play with a five-second violation when Franklin was unable to inbound the ball past senior Krista Gross’ outstretched arms.

Virginia forward Telia McCall said her team failed to use ball fakes effectively to generate space on in-bound plays.

Ruffin-Pratt took it a step further later in the second half when she stole guard Kelsey Wolfe’s inbound bounce pass at half-court and finished with an uncontested layup to stretch the Tar Heels’ lead to 53-31.

Hatchell said her players take pride in playing stifling defense.

“All five of them don’t want to be the weak link and they really get after it, especially when (center) Waltiea (Rolle) is on the throw-in,” Hatchell said.

Hatchell said her team’s ability to communicate on the court is the result of chemistry.

“Chemistry has a lot to do with it,” Hatchell said. “It’s like the wind. You can’t really see it, but you sure can see the results of it.”

Contact the desk editor at sports@dailytarheel.com.

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