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Rolle and Ruffin-Pratt continue to improve

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Women's Basketball v. N.C. State on Sunday, February 19, 2012 in Carmichael Arena

Before the season began, North Carolina basketball coach Sylvia Hatchell was faced with a dilemma.

She knew two of her key veterans — Tierra Ruffin-Pratt and Waltiea Rolle — would be out of commission until at least December, and the coach wasn’t quite sure whether to redshirt them or to allow them to try to work their way back.

Hatchell chose the latter option, and she’s glad she did.

Though both players have faced their fair share of hurdles along the comeback trail, they each played an indispensable role in UNC’s 68-59 victory against N.C. State on Sunday.

“Both of them are great kids, and they just worked hard,” Hatchell said. “I couldn’t have asked for them to have had any better attitudes then they’ve had, so it was fun to see Waltiea be successful out there tonight and for Pratt to have her career high.”

Ruffin-Pratt led all scorers with a career-best 23 points and also pulled down 11 boards, while Rolle stepped in at center and scored 12 points with center Chay Shegog — the team’s leading scorer — in foul trouble.

For Ruffin-Pratt, the game marked a return to form after averaging just 4.8 points per game during the Tar Heel’s last five contests, a 2-3 stretch.

Ruffin-Pratt’s shooting has been inconsistent since returning from shoulder surgery in January. But of late, the junior guard has put in significant time in the gym.

Hatchell estimated that Ruffin-Pratt has taken 1,000 shots a week as she’s tried to get her feel back.

And on Sunday, it appeared as though the work paid off.

“I’ve been missing a lot of easy shots,” Ruffin-Pratt said. “So just getting in the gym and shooting those same shots that I shoot in a game over and over and over is helping them go in.”

For Rolle, the situation has been a bit different.

Since giving birth in November, the center’s focus hasn’t necessarily been on her shooting.

“Waltiea’s always been a really good shooter … I knew she could do what she did today,” Hatchell said. “It’s just a matter of getting her back in shape.”

Hatchell said Rolle has dropped about 20 pounds since she’s returned, and her improved conditioning was evident as she played for a season-high 23 minutes Sunday.

With Shegog notching her fourth foul with 18:24 left to go in the game, the Tar Heels needed Rolle to hold down the center position.

And the junior responded with 10 points in the second half to help keep the UNC lead intact.

Once at risk to be redshirted, both Rolle and Ruffin-Pratt played essential roles in UNC’s rivalry win.

“Waltiea wanted to play. As soon as she got back she said, ‘I want to play,’” Hatchell said. “And then with Pratt, whenever she was released, our numbers were so low at the guard position … we just needed her.”

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