by Mike Potter
CARMICHAEL ARENA/CHAPEL HILL UNC hopes to start the season with the championship of the Preseason WNIT, and the second part of that quest is tonight.
Duquesne was 20-12 last season.
This one turns out to be a grinder, with the Tar Heels trailing almost the whole way before escaping with the 62-58 decision.
The first half belongs to Duquesne, which leads 35-26 at the break after being up as many as 14. Orsi Scecsi leads the Dukes with 12 points and seven rebounds at the break.
The Dukes shoot 42.9 percent for the period to 38.7 for UNC and lead the rebound battle 22-15.
Tierra Ruffin-Pratt scores the Tar Heels’ first 11 points of the half, cutting the margin to 39-35 at 12:48.
Duquesne stretches its lead back to five twice before the Tar Heels finally tie it at 53-53 when Xylina McDaniel hits the first of two free throws at 5:13.
Krista Gross then hits two free throws at 5:01 and the Tar Heels take the lead for good at 55-53.
The biggest lead is five, the last time at 60-55 at 1:46, when Waltiea Rolle hits a five-foot jumper for UNC’s first field goal in over 10 minutes.
Ruffin-Pratt leads all scorers with a career-high 24 points. Gross gets 11 points and 12 rebounds while Rolle hits 11 with 10, each getting her eighth career double-double.
Szecsi finishes with 17 points and 13 rebounds, while April Robinson chips in 10 points for the Dukes.
UNC shoots 31.7 percent for the game to Duquesne’s 32.2, outrebounds the Dukes 48-46 and commits 24 turnovers to the visitors’ 27.
UNC hits 22 of 35 free throws to Duquesne’s 13-for-20.
There are 50 fouls called in the game with six players fouling out. Tar Heel freshman Xylina McDaniel plays only 17 minutes before fouling out, and Ruffin-Pratt fouls out as well. So does Szecsi, who leads a parade of four Dukes to the bench.
They said it …
UNC coach Sylvia Hatchell: “I’m happy to have a win tonight, especially not shooting any better than that. If we knock down shots, we can win by 20-25. Tierra is going to get better and better with her decision-making. Being healthy she’ll be knocking down a lot of shots. I’m excited for her. Krista plays every position on the floor. That’s why at the end I had her taking the ball out of bounds. I wanted her to be a calming factor with those young guards.”
Ruffin-Pratt: “I was just trying to be more aggressive in the second half. We shot, what, four free throws in the first half? I was trying to get in the paint a little more and get the ball inside.”
Gross: “Everybody stayed pretty level-headed. No one really got out of control. We were all pretty poised throughout the whole thing. We did well. It was good for us to see that.”
What does it all mean?
That the Tar Heels still have a chance for an early-season championship.
Stars of the game
Play of the game
Rountree’s two free throws at 4.0 to complete the scoring.
UNC: Won 2.
Duquesne: Lost 1.
UNC vs. Georgetown, Wednesday, 7 p.m.
Duquesne in WNIT consolation semifinal, Friday or Saturday