by Mike Potter
CARMICHAEL ARENA/CHAPEL HILL UNC is riding high after a mild upset of No. 8 Maryland here three nights ago.
And today the Tar Heels (14-1, 2-0 ACC) will host an up-and-coming Virginia Tech squad (7-6, 1-1) that is making big strides in Dennis Wolff’s second season at the helm.
UNC has to grind one out, but ends up holding off the determined Hokies 48-45, the 48 points being the fewest the Tar Heels have ever scored in a win.
The Hokies come out fast, leading 18-9 on an Alyssa Fenyn layup with 6:57 left in the half before the Tar Heels storm back to tie it at 22-22 at the half.
The last tie is at 26-26 on a Taijah Campbell layup with 18:01 to go. The Tar Heels’ biggest lead is 10, at 44-34 on a Megan Buckland bucket with 6:10 remaining.
Tech closes to two twice in the final 1:17, the last at 47-45 when Fenyn hits a pair of free throws with 60 seconds to go.
Tierra Ruffin-Pratt makes it 48-45 on a free throw with 10 seconds left, and the Hokies are unable to get a 3-point attempt to tie.
Ruffin-Pratt and Xylina McDaniel lead UNC with 14 points each.
Ugoka finishes with 15 and Monet Tellier 12 for Tech.
UNC shoots 33.3 percent to 41.9 for the visitors, but wins the rebound battle 32-29 and commits 20 turnovers to the visitors’ 24.
The No. 25 jersey of former UNC forward Kathy Crawford (’83) was honored during a halftime ceremony.
They said it:
UNC coach Sylvia Hatchell: “It’s exciting and fun to be 15-1 and 3-0 in the league. (And) we know we can play better than we are. “But I don’t want to take anything away from Virginia Tech. They’re physical and their defense is very good. They played hard, and they’re going to be really hard to play against the rest of the season. I thought in the first half we were still celebrating (Thursday’s) Maryland win, because we just didn’t play well the first 14-15 minutes before we finally got some things going.”
Wolff: “We had a chance. We got a good shot, missed it, had to foul and got a little discombobulated on the last play where we were trying to shoot a ‘three.’ But I’m really proud of the effort these girls have given the whole season. Since Uju has joined the team we’ve been very competitive in every game. Carolina’s got a real good team and they’re well-coached. We just didn’t have enough at the end.”
Ruffin-Pratt: “We just started off slow. Shots weren’t falling, even ones around the basket. We weren’t really going as hard as we could, but we picked it up better in the second half. Halftime changed it. We had more intensity and rebounded better in the second half.”
McDaniel: “I’m a lot more comfortable than I was in November, playing anybody we have to go against. At the end of the day, they’re going to be who they are and we’ve just got to play our game.”
What does it all mean?
That UNC can grind out wins against decent ACC teams, and that Virginia Tech is far better than it was last season.
Stars of the game
Play of the game
Buckland’s layup off McDaniel’s steal and assist to make it 36-29 with 11:18 to go.
UNC: Won 8.
VT: Lost 2.
UNC leads 15-3.
UNC at N.C. State, Thursday, 7 p.m.
Va. Tech vs. Boston College, Thursday, 7 p.m.