by Mike Potter
CARMICHAEL ARENA/CHAPEL HILL It’s the first game matching Triangle Division I basketball teams this season, and on paper it’s a serious mismatch.
UNC has also hit a run of bad luck, as the Tar Heels have a long injury list. Xylina McDaniel is out for at least this game with a strained hamstring, while Waltiea Rolle will miss the contest with a sprained ankle and freshman Hillary Fuller a sore Achilles tendon. Sophomore forward Whitney Adams gets her first start for UNC.
The Tar Heels will dress only eight players and the Eagles’ seven for the 11 a.m. contest, which UNC coach Sylvia Hatchell said she planned to allow local school groups to attend. And there are several busloads of youngsters in the house.
UNC leads from wire to wire, but wins only 49-21 in the closest game in five matchups in the series.
To say things get off to a slow start is an understatement.
It’s 3-3 before Latifah Coleman’s layup for the Tar Heels at 13:34. And the Eagles’ next points come on a Tisha Dixon layup with 35 seconds left in thee period that cuts it to 21-6 and completes the halftime scoring.
UNC shoots 25 percent to the Eagles’ 10.5, leads the rebound battle 23-18 and commits 10 turnovers to NCCU’s 17 before the break.
The Tar Heels’ biggest lead is 30, on Tierra Ruffin-Pratt’s layup from N’Dea Bryant that makes it 47-17 with 4:52 to go.
Ruffin-Pratt — in her first game since suffering a concussion at Tennessee 10 days ago — leads the Tar Heels with 14 points, followed by Brittany Rountree with 11 and Danielle Butts 10. Krista Gross has 12 rebounds and two points.
Freshman Dixon leads NCCU with eight points and 12 rebounds.
UNC shoots 27.4 percent to NCCU’s 16.3, wins the rebound battle 44-39 and commits 14 turnovers to the Eagles’ 26.
They said it:
Hatchell: “I thought we gave good effort and our defense was good. We were so thin inside, I was glad we at least outrebounded them. Krista Gross gave a good effort, but we need to get some of those other ones out there especially in the post. … Central made a great hire in Coach Taylor. She just needs some time and some more players. She’ll do an excellent job.”
Taylor: “We’re excited we were able to hold them under 50 points. Carolina is so explosive offensively and is able to create so many scoring opportunities. In the first half we got good looks, but we missed some layups and left free throws out there. I felt like in the second half we settled down a little more and were more physical going to the bucket.”
Ruffin-Pratt: “I was a little tired, but today was like my first day back running full. Hopefully by Sunday I’ll be back to where I need to be. … We had some players playing who weren’t used to getting many minutes, but when we came off the bench we were able to get back into rhythm. Defense has been our strong point all season, and if we keep working on that our offense will come.”
Dixon: “I was nervous at first, but after that I just thought about playing hard and having fun, not thinking about Carolina but just playing a regular game. We just talk about going hard in every game. We’ve just got to keep going hard.”
What does it all mean?
That the Tar Heels can easily beat an outgunned opponent with several top players unavailable. And that the Eagles can play very hard even when things aren’t going well.
Stars of the game
Play of the game
Megan Buckland’s 3-pointer for a 15-4 UNC lead with 6:04 left in the first half.
UNC: Won 2.
NCCU: Lost 17.
UNC leads 6-0.
NCCU vs. Winthrop, Saturday, 4 p.m.
UNC at Coastal Carolina, Sunday, 2 p.m.