CHAPEL HILL — Tierra Ruffin-Pratt was a stat-sheet stuffer for North Carolina on Thursday night.
That, plus a big performance from the Tar Heels’ front line, led to a comfortable victory against Virginia.
Ruffin-Pratt, a senior guard, had 14 points, eight assists, five rebounds and five steals as No. 11 UNC eased past the Cavaliers 71-60 in ACC women’s basketball at Carmichael Arena.
Freshman forward Xylina McDaniel led the Tar Heels with a game-high 15 points and nine rebounds, and Waltiea Rolle added 14 points with four blocked shots.
It was the 11th straight victory for the Tar Heels (18-1, 6-0). Virginia (11-6, 3-3) has lost 17 of the past 18 in the series and the past nine meetings in Chapel Hill.
“The first half, we played really well both on offense and defense,” said UNC coach Sylvia Hatchell, who has 897 career victories. “In the second half we played really well in the first six or seven minutes, but took some bad shots and eased up and lost a little of our intensity.
“But I saw some really good things, when we had 18 assists and 14 steals with 13 turnovers. (Ruffin-Pratt) has a lot to do with that. Her numbers were really good. We’re working really hard, and we’re getting better. This is a really good group with tremendous chemistry.”
Telia McCall and Kelsey Wolfe had 13 points each to lead Virginia. Simone Egwu added a game-high 10 rebounds to her six points.
“I was disappointed on how we came out, but a lot of credit goes to Carolina,” said Virginia coach and Duke alumna Joanne Boyle, whose team had won five of its past six coming into the contest. “They’re a good team and their record shows it, and we didn’t respond the way we needed to.
“They had balanced scoring with three people in double figures. They were going at Rolle early and then Tierra got her shots off. I just think we had a lot of mental breakdowns.”
Ruffin-Pratt, a highly touted recruit who has had a career full of shoulder injuries prior to this healthy senior season, has become UNC’s primary point guard.
“We played a good first half at both ends,” Ruffin-Pratt said. “We just came out with a lot of intensity on defense and that just sparked our offense.
“I’m getting more and more comfortable playing the point. At the beginning of the season it was a task that I wasn’t really used to, and I got to a point where I didn’t want to do it anymore. But the coaches want the ball in my hands and if they trust me I’ll learn to trust myself. I try to stay focused on defense and everything else will follow.”
Rolle, 6-foot-6, was dominant in the early minutes, scoring six of UNC’s first eight points and putting in 10 by halftime.
“I think I’m fitting in pretty well, but I have a lot of things to work on,” McDaniel said. “There isn’t too much pressure on me right now.
“I feed off Waltiea and all of my teammates. Once I see them doing good things I say to myself ‘I’ve got to get in here and get some action.’ ”
UNC shot 41.9 percent from the floor – including 51.5 in the first half – to Virginia’s 37.0, committing 13 turnovers to the Cavaliers’ 24. Virginia finished with 45 rebounds to UNC’s 39.