by Mike Potter
With No. 11 UNC hosting No. 5 Duke in a battle for first place in the ACC with all kinds of ranking and post-season implications, it’s the Triangle’s most important women’s basketball game of the season.
And oh, Tar Heel coach Sylvia Hatchell will look for her 900th career victory against her team’s bitterest rival.
Hatchell is 31-31 against Duke, while Blue Devil coach Joanne P. McCallie got her first win in the series here last year.
But this time it’s Duke’s day, as the Blue Devils get off to a huge lead and roll to an 84-63 rout.
Duke leads 19-4 following an Alexis Jones layup with 13:14 left in the first half, taking it to 36-7 on Richa Jackson’s layup from Jones with 6:33 left in the period.
The crowd of 5,613 keeps up its intensity for 40 minutes, but UNC’s closest approach of the second half is Brittany Rountree’s bucket from Latifah Coleman to make it 60-42 with 12:33 to go.
Chloe Wells leads Duke with a career-high 18 points including 6-for-7 from 3-point range, while Elizabeth Williams chips in 13 points and 11 rebounds for her third double-double of the season and eighth of her career.
Tricia Liston scores 15 points off the bench including a trio of 3-pointers, helping Duke to a season-high 11 3-pointers on 18 attempts. Haley Peters chips in 14 points.
Tierra Ruffin-Pratt leads UNC with 18 points, followed by Waltiea Rolle with 17 and Xylina McDaniel with 12.
Duke shoots 46.2 percent from the floor to the Tar Heels’ 33.3, wins the rebound battle 45-40 and commits 22 turnovers to UNC’s 24.
Hatchell: “I really don’t know what to say — the first half we were hardly even in the gym. I don’t know what was going on with us. I was about to use all of my timeouts. Duke is a great team. They’ve got lots of weapons. They were really shooting the ball well and getting some open looks. We didn’t play like I thought we would — I thought we would give them a much better game. The second half was a little bit different. We beat them by 10 points in the second half, but we were down so much.”
Wells: “I just think we stayed focused on the game plan. When we play inside-out it’s pretty deadly. First, when we play we play for each other. So I knew when (teammates) went down I had to have their back, and it didn’t matter if there were bench players or regular players, we played the same game. We had the same focus.”
Ruffin-Pratt: “I don’t think we played with a lot of intensity. “We weren’t rotating well off the double-teams, off the traps. We weren’t rotating well at all.”
What does it all mean?
That Duke has become very good in ACC road games, while UNC still has something to prove to get into the Top 10.
Stars of the game
Play of the game
Williams’ layup from Gray on a behind-the-back pass to make it 11-4 with 16:20 left in the first half.
Duke: Won 4.
UNC: Lost 1.
UNC leads 47-37.
UNC at Boston College, Thursday, 7 p.m.
Duke at Virginia, Friday, 7 p.m.