by Mike Potter
CARMICHAEL ARENA/CHAPEL HILL UNC plays its biggest game so far this season tonight.
UNC has already gotten one nice win over a Big Ten team this season, winning 77-64 at Iowa in the championship game of the Preseason WNIT. The Buckeyes’ only loss was in their opener, a 57-51 defeat to future ACC member Notre Dame in the Carrier Classic in Charleston, S.C.
This one looks like a blowout before turning into a nail-biter, as Tierra Ruffin-Pratt takes over the final 45 seconds as the Tar Heels win 57-54.
The Tar Heels lead 29-25 at halftime, taking the advantage to as much as 44-28 on a Krista Gross layup with 11:36 to play.
Ohio State takes its biggest lead of the second half with 1:27 to play on a layup from Tayler Hill.
But then the Tar Heels take over. Xylina McDaniel cuts the lead to a point on a layup with 1:14 to play.
With 41 seconds left Ruffin-Pratt takes the ball from Darryce Moore and drives three quarters of the court for a layup. Then 14 seconds later she gets another after stealing Hill’s inbounds pass on the sideline. And after Hill misses a rushed 3-point attempt in the closing seconds, Ruffin-Pratt rebounds to seal the outcome.
Hill finishes with 24 points as the only player in double figures for the Buckeyes.
UNC shoots 38 percent to OSU’s 33.9, wins the rebound battle 42-40 and commits 21 turnovers to the Buckeyes’ 22.
They said it:
UNC coach Sylvia Hatchell: “We played well at times and we had a spell where we fell apart and let them take the lead back. But Ruffin-Pratt had some big defensive plays in the last minute and finished, and Xylina did some nice things at the end, too. We knew Ohio State would come storming back when they got behind. Hill is an excellent player. We’re glad for the win, and glad that we showed some toughness tonight.”
OSU coach Jim Foster: “This is a simple game. Sometimes players can complicate it, and we had that happen at some points. We were trying to slow down (Ruffin-Pratt) as much as we could. She’s strong with the ball. I thought we could affect her and we did a pretty good job. And the big kid (Rolle). She’s got a nice touch around the basket.”
Ruffin-Pratt: “I had a lot of adrenaline going, and our defense picked up tremendously at the end. We just had to work to get the lead back and keep it. They went on a run and then we went on ours.”
McDaniel: “That was just me playing ball. “I’m getting real comfortable with my team, and I was just playing my game.”
What does it all mean?
That UNC can hold off a pretty good team to win a big game. And that the Tar Heels will take lots of momentum to Tennessee.
Stars of the game
Play of the game
Ruffin-Pratt’s steal and layup for the lead.
UNC: Won 7.
Ohio State: Lost 1.
UNC leads 4-3.
Ohio State vs. Evansville, Saturday, 1 p.m.
UNC at Tennessee, Sunday, 1 p.m.