Ruffin-Pratt leads UNC women past ETSU
East Tennessee State coach Karen Kemp’s voice was hoarse during her postgame comments Friday, and it wasn’t because she was sick.
Instead, the cause was No. 16 North Carolina’s defense, which forced Kemp’s team to commit 36 turnovers and shoot just 27.7 percent. The result was an 85-44 win for UNC at Carmichael Arena that wrapped up the Tar Heels’ successful non-conference schedule.
UNC (12-1), which entered the game sixth in the country in defensive field-goal percentage (31.7), was only up seven with three minutes left before halftime, but it finished the first half on an 11-2 run and then scored the first 17 points after intermission.
A 3-pointer by Megan Buckland made it 58-25 with 15:43 remaining, and ETSU (2-5) never got closer than 29 the rest of the way.
“We were hoping to keep it respectable, and I thought the first half, other than turning the ball over, we did a pretty decent job,” Kemp said. “And then in the second half, their size, their strength, their speed took over at the beginning and they got a lot of easy baskets.”
After making just 6 of 21 shots from the paint, the Tar Heels started converting their easy looks during a second half when they shot 53.1 percent.
Senior Tierra Ruffin-Pratt had 18 points and a career-high nine assists, while senior Krista Gross, the ACC’s leading rebounder at 10.6 a game, had a team-high eight boards. Ruffin-Pratt and Gross each had four of UNC’s 20 steals.
All 12 players scored for the Tar Heels. Freshman Xylina McDaniel, who missed the past three games with a hamstring injury, had 11 points in 16 minutes, while Buckland was 3-of-6 from behind the arc for nine points.
ETSU fell to 0-14 all-time against UNC — Coastal Carolina (0-15) is the only team to play UNC more often without a win — and has lost at Carmichael in each of the past four years by an average of 34 points.
The turnover edge Friday (UNC only had 15) made up for ETSU’s 47-39 advantage in rebounding. It was only the second time all season the Tar Heels were outrebounded — Tennessee also had a 54-40 edge when it beat UNC by 45 on Dec. 2.
That was the only loss of the non-conference schedule for the Tar Heels, who were unranked in the preseason for the first time since 2001 but have moved up in the polls since winning the Preseason WNIT.
“I’m not happy with the rebounding today,” UNC coach Sylvia Hatchell said. “But there’s no doubt that we’re playing hard, we’ve come a long way and we’ve won some good games.”
The Tar Heels beat formerly ranked Georgetown and Ohio State and are the only team to have defeated Duquesne.
UNC opens ACC play Sunday at Clemson (4-7). The Tar Heels have won 18 of the past 19 games against the Tigers, though Clemson won at Carmichael last year in a game that postponed the celebration for Hatchell’s 600th win at UNC.
No. 16 UNC 85, ETSU 44
Percentages: FG .277, FT .636. 3-Point Goals: 1-13, .077 (Bowling 1-3, Bond 0-1, McQueen 0-2, Duke 0-2, Bogard 0-2, Randall 0-3). Team Rebounds: 5. Blocked Shots: 2 (Bowling, Clark). Turnovers: 36 (Duke 6, McQueen 6, Clark 5, Randall 5, Bogard 4, Mitchell 3, Burley 2, Bond, Bowling, Austin, Kemp). Steals: 5 (Clark, Miles, McQueen, Duke, Bowling).
Percentages: FG .433, FT .724. 3-Point Goals: 6-18, .333 (Buckland 3-6, Coleman 1-2, Rountree 1-4, Bannister 1-5, Butts 0-1). Team Rebounds: 5. Blocked Shots: 5 (Rolle 2, Johnson, McDaniel, Ruffin-Pratt). Turnovers: 15 (Coleman 3, McDaniel 3, Ruffin-Pratt 3, Rountree 2, Bryant, Johnson, Rolle, Gross). Steals: 20 (Ruffin-Pratt 4, Gross 4, Rolle 2, Johnson 2, Rountree 2, Butts 2, Adams, Buckland, McDaniel, Coleman).
A—2,528. Officials—Dennis DeMayo, Kevin Sparrock, Karen Gruca.