North Carolina’s win against FSU shows growth

Thursday night’s 72-62 win against Florida State was a slight upgrade from the 71-66 win the North Carolina women’s basketball team secured last February — but the 2012-13 team is even more improved than the difference in scores would suggest.

The win against Florida State moved No. 11 UNC to 20-2 on the season, 8-1 in the ACC and earned North Carolina its fourth win against a ranked team this year.

With the 10-point victory, this season’s Tar Heel squad matched its win total from the previous season.

UNC is also within two wins of beating as many conference opponents as it did last year — all before Feb. 1.

“To have 20 wins and it only be January … I think we’ve only ever done that one other time,” coach Sylvia Hatchell said. “But we know we’ve got a lot of tough games coming up.”

North Carolina’s strong mid-season record is encouraging for senior Waltiea Rolle, who recorded a double-double with 18 points and 10 rebounds. But the focus is on keeping the trend going.

“I mean, it has been a confidence booster, but it’s just one game,” Rolle said. “But you’ve got to keep playing. You’ve got to win.”

Winning looked like it was going to come easier than it did for UNC, which lead by as many as 19 points in the first half. But FSU rallied in the second half to grasp a one-time one-point lead.

Rolle then scored to recapture her team’s lead and momentum.

With about five and a half minutes left, the fans started to get involved.

The “Tar Heel” chant sounded loudly for the first time of the night after Florida State’s Leonor Rodriguez missed a 3-pointer, and UNC commanded control of the game it had already lost a lead in once.

Then FSU’s Alexa Deluzio hit a 3-pointer.

But North Carolina still led 62-58, and Florida State was unable to take back momentum and could not stop freshman Xylina McDaniel.

“I might have made one good move, and I was like, ‘Oh shoot, you’ve got to start doing something now,’” McDaniel said. “If one of us is down, then someone has to pick up the slack, that was my way of picking it up.”

McDaniel’s run proved that North Carolina is in a very different position than it was a year ago.

Injuries, specifically ACL tears, were that team’s primary handicap. So far, UNC has remained healthy this season.

With a resurgent Tierra Ruffin-Pratt and a deeper bench, UNC can afford to play a more up-tempo offense and smothering press defense.

And the confidence that comes with winning has helped the Tar Heels weather challenges like the one the Seminoles presented in the second half.

“This is a special group of kids,” Hatchell said. “They work hard, they’re very unselfish and they like to cut up with one another too.

“That is really important, and we’ve improved a lot too. And we’re going to continue to get better too.”

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