by Mike Potter
SMITH CENTER/CHAPEL HILL UNC is home for a rare early Sunday afternoon game in women's basketball, the 12:30 starting time necessitated by the men's game against Nevada later in the day.
The unbeaten No. 4 Tar Heels' opponent is Charleston Southern, another foe from the Big South Conference that seems to be Coach Sylvia Hatchell's favorite reservoir of non-conference home opponents.
As usual in these games, the Tar Heels will be heavy favorites.
Forward Laura Broomfield is back in the lineup after a one-game disciplinary suspension, and makes the start. Still on the bench is freshman guard Krista Gross, out for her second game with a broken bone in her hand.
From the beginning of the game, it's obvious Julie Goodenough's Buccaneers have a solid game plan and aren't coming in already admitting defeat. And even though it isn't successful, the 3-point barrage is good enough to keep the game interesting for almost 40 minutes before the Tar Heels finally prevail 76-67.
CSU comes out firing 3-pointers as if close-in shots are illegal. The Bucs lead 9-7 early, and it isn't until the 10:52 mark of the first half that the visitors score on something other than a three-point play.
UNC's lead is 46-36 at halftime behind 12 points from Tierra Ruffin-Pratt and 10 from Broomfield.
Kelsey Wasmer, one of four CSU players with multiple 3-pointers at the break, leads her team with 10 points.
The Buccaneers hang tough for the second half, but can't recover after the Tar Heels go up by 22 points with just over 11 minutes left.
Freshman Ruffin-Pratt leads the Tar Heels with a season-high 16 points. Broomfield finishes with 14 points and 11 rebounds, her second double-double of the season, while freshmen Waltiea Rolle adds 10 points.
Kelsey Wasmer has 19 and Katie Tull 18 for CSU, which hits 17 of 48 3-pointers, both the attempts and successes records for any team against the Tar Heels.
The Tar Heels hit 50.0 percent from the field to the visitors' 29.6, and barely win the rebound battle 46-43.
Hatchell said Gross remains day-to-day and may be ready for Thursday's big ACC/Big Ten Challenge game at Michigan State. She said she will be meeting with doctors for preseason All-ACC forward Jessica Breland, who has suffered from Hodgkin's lymphoma, to see whether or not Breland will be able to play soon or indeed at all this season.
They said it ...
UNC coach Sylvia Hatchell: "Give Charleston Southern a lot of credit. They played a great game. I've never seen anybody shoot as many 3s, and make them. But we knew that's the kind of team they were. They've got some kids that can shoot the ball and that makes a big difference. The biggest thing for us was the rebounding. We didn't do a good job on the boards and we've got to do better there. But I think this game will be good for us. We've just got to make more commitment to our rebounding. We didn't take advantage of our height."
CSU coach Julie Goodenough: "We don't shoot very many two-pointers. We work on free throws, layups and 3s. We feel like those are the highest percentage shots for our team. We don't normally shoot 48, but there were about five ill-advised 3s that we took. Other than that I would have given them the green light to take the ones that they did."
Ruffin-Pratt: "We work on so much help-side defense in practice, it's difficult when you have to stay on a man and not helping at all."
What does it all mean?
That the Tar Heels have enough talent to withstand a great game plan and solid execution from an outmanned opponent. And that CSU may be poised for a run at the Big South title if Sunday's game was an accurate indication.
Stars of the game
Play of the game
Ruffin-Pratt's bucket that put the Tar Heels up 65-43 for their biggest lead with 11:12 left.
UNC leads 8-0.
UNC: Won 5.
CSU: Lost 1.
CSU at UNC Greensboro, Tuesday, 7 p.m.
UNC at Michigan State, Thursday, 8:30 p.m.