CHAPEL HILL — Once again, North Carolina needed a superior effort down the stretch to hold off N.C. State’s intensity.
Thanks to two seniors having career-type games, the Tar Heels were able to do it.
Tierra Ruffin-Pratt tied her career high with 24 points and Waltiea Rolle added 21 points with 11 rebounds as the No. 16 Tar Heels topped the Wolfpack 68-58 in ACC women’s basketball Sunday at Carmichael Arena.
The win came in front of 4,840 at a Play 4Kay game to honor the late Wolfpack coach Kay Yow and to increase breast cancer awareness.
“It was a good game, but not the best we’ve ever played,” said UNC coach Sylvia Hatchell, who got her 904th career win. “I thought we showed signs of being a little bit tired. We didn’t have the pep in our step like we had Friday night against Virginia Tech – we drove back and got in about 3 o’clock.
“That’s why we came out of a lot of the presses. But (Ruffin-Pratt and Rolle) just took over when we needed them to. I told them, ‘You guys are wearing pink uniforms today, and pink stands for passion. Just look at each other and look at the color pink and think passion.’”
The Tar Heels (25-4, 13-3) had to rally to win the teams’ first meeting of the season 70-66 on Jan. 10 at Reynolds Coliseum.
The loss came despite perhaps the best collective effort of the season from the Wolfpack’s backcourt.
Marissa Kastanek led the way with 17 points, followed by Len’Nique Brown with 15 and Krystal Barrett with 10.
N.C. State (13-15, 5-11) played without junior guard Myisha Goodwin-Coleman, who is on indefinite suspension for conduct detrimental to the team.
“I thought today our players played hard, but we’ve got to give a lot of the credit to North Carolina’s defense,” Wolfpack coach Kellie Harper said. “Their halfcourt defense is one of their strengths, but they were really able to take us out of our offense and turn us over and convert on the other end.”
Kastanek made three 3-pointers, increasing her career total to 231 and passing the 230 hit by Tammy Gibson for the No. 2 spot on the Wolfpack’s all-time list.
“Our energy in this game was key,” Kastanek said. “We knew their defense was going to be jumping out in the passing lanes and we had to be ready for that, so we had to match their defensive intensity.”
Xylina McDaniel had 15 points and nine rebounds for the Tar Heels, and Kody Burke had 11 rebounds to go with nine points for the Wolfpack.
The Tar Heels shot 39.1 percent to N.C. State’s 38.3. N.C. State won the rebound battle 44-39, but committed 31 turnovers to UNC’s 21.
“In the second half I was doing a better job of getting open shots by getting to the open spot,” said Ruffin-Pratt, who was 9-for-17 from the floor. “Usually I knock a little bit more of those shots down in that 15-foot area. But I’ll get it back.”
N.C. State led 33-32 after a tightly fought first half behind eight points each from Kastanek, Barrett and Brown. Ruffin-Pratt had 12 points – with three fouls – for the Tar Heels and Rolle had nine. The Wolfpack led the rebound battle 21-13 at halftime.
“They were putting up a lot of good shots and we weren’t doing a good job getting to the boards,” Rolle said. “Coach Hatchell told us we had to do a better job, and we just did it.”
N.C. State’s biggest lead was six points on three occasions, the last at 45-39 on two Brown free throws with 13:39 to play.
The Tar Heels took the lead for good with a 13-2 run, going up 52-47 on a McDaniel layup with 8:48 to play. N.C. State closed to within a point twice, but never again had the ball with a chance to take the lead.