And in the big picture, this one may mean more to the Wolfpack (13-14, 5-10 ACC).
It’s UNC’s annual home Play 4Kay game, in memory of the late Wolfpack coach Kay Yow and to raise awareness of breast cancer. The No. 16 Tar Heels (24-4, 12-3 ACC) are all decked out in pink, but except for the shoes on walk-on Kaley Moser there is no pink on Wolfpack players who are in their standard home whites with red trim. State’s bench personnel are generally wearing some pink.
The Wolfpack, which needs every win it can get to earn a post-season berth, will play today without junior guard Myisha Goodwin-Coleman who is suspended indefinitely for a violation of team rules.
Today the Wolfpack fights gamely in the underdog role, but the Tar Heels finish strong in a 68-58 victory.
State leads 33-32 at the break behind eight points each from Marissa Kastanek, Krystal Barrett and Len’Nique Brown. Tierra Ruffin-Pratt has 12 points — with three fouls — for the Tar Heels while Waltiea Rolle has nine.
The Wolfpack leads the rebound battle 21-13 at the break.
State’s biggest lead is six points on three occasions, the last at 45-39 on a pair of Brown free throws with 13:39 to play.
But the Tar Heels take the lead for good with a 13-2 run, going up 52-47 on a McDaniel layup with 8:48 to play.
State closes to within a point twice, but never again has the ball with a chance to take the lead.
Ruffin-Pratt leads UNC with a career-high tying 24 points, while Rolle adds 21 with 11 rebounds and freshman Xylina McDaniel chips in 15.
Kastanek leads State with 17 points, followed by 15 from Brown and 10 from Barrett.
UNC shoots 39.1 percent from the floor to State’s 38.3. The Wolfpack wins the rebound battle 44-39, but commits 31 turnovers to the Tar Heels’ 21.
State coach Kellie Harper: “I thought today our players played hard, but we’ve got to give a lot of the credit to North Carolina’s defense. Their half-court defense is one of their strengths, but they were really able to take us out of our offense and turn us over and convert on the other end. Len’Nique Brown and Krystal Barrett did a great job under pressure the entire game. It’s not like they were walking the ball up the entire time, and they’re trying to run and offense. And I was asking Krystal to guard (Ruffin-Pratt). I thought our kids played tough. We got a lot of loose balls because our kids just stuck their nose in there.”
Ruffin-Pratt: “In the second half I was doing a better job of getting open shots by getting to the open spot. Usually I knock a little bit more of those shots down in that 15-foot area. But I’ll get it back.”
Kastanek: Our energy in this game was key. We knew their defense was going to be jumping out in the passing lanes and we had to be ready for that, so we had to match their defensive intensity.”
What does it all mean?
That the Tar Heels are now tied for second in the ACC, while the Wolfpack is tied for eighth.
Stars of the game
Play of the game
Rolle’s three-point play on a Megan Buckland assist to make it 59-53 with 5:34 to go.
UNC: Won 2.
State: Lost 3.
State leads 51-45.
UNC vs. Boston College, Thursday, 7 p.m.
State vs. Virginia, Thursday, 7 p.m.