The North Carolina Tar Heels ran over the East Tennessee State University (ETSU) Lady Bucs during an 85-44 victory in front of 2,528 in attendance at Carmichael Arena in Chapel Hill, N.C. on Friday.
Senior guard Tierra Ruffin-Pratt completed an efficient 18-point performance that included distributing nine assists, making four steals, and shooting a perfect 8-for-8 from the free throw line, all in 24-minutes of playing time.
Aggressive play from forward Xylina McDaniel (11 points, 1 rebound) and guards Danielle Butts (9 points, 2 rebounds) and Megan Buckland (9 points, 3 rebounds) caused ETSU to turn the ball over 36 times and resulted in 36 points scored accordingly.
“I like this group. They’re working hard and we’ve got lots of possibilities as far as our development and our future,” Tar Heels head coach Sylvia Hatchell said afterwards.
As North Carolina’s floor leader, it has become routine for Ruffin-Pratt to carry the load at both ends of the court, regardless of the opponent.
“Always gotta’ show up,” she said.
As the game’s high scorer, Ruffin-Pratt pointed out that her pregame preparation was specifically focused on minimizing turnovers and taking advantage of her opportunities at the free throw line.
She accomplished both while helping North Carolina to extend its record to 12-1.
“We’ve still got some work to do,” she added.
Getting back into a rhythm
After taking five days off after two consecutive wins over Coastal Carolina and East Carolina in Myrtle Beach, S.C., the Tar Heels took most of the first half to find their rhythm while shooting only 34 percent – missing numerous layup attempts in doing so.
Even while leading 41-25 at halftime, Hatchell’s message to her players was for them to simply focus and finish their shots.
“We couldn’t have got any better shots, but we were not making them,” Hatchell said.
In not connecting on those attempts, the Tar Heels didn’t help themselves any by not picking up loose balls afterwards and were outrebounded 47-39 by the Lady Bucs throughout the game.
“We just couldn’t get the job done rebounding. We’ve got to do a better job rebounding,” Hatchell continued.
Transition game surfaces
North Carolina responded to Hatchell’s directive and started the second half by going on a 17-0 run that left the Lady Bucs scrambling and unable to recover in any way.
“You don’t get into the top 25 because you’re a mediocre team,” ETSU head coach Karen Kemp said.
“Their halfcourt trap really threw us off,” she continued.
North Carolina’s tenacious defensive play helped to spark its transition game, accounting for the offensive explosion that took place, while containing the Lady Bucs to only 19 points for the remainder of the game.
The performance of players coming off the Tar Heels bench was also a contributing factor to the win over ETSU.
North Carolina put in all of its reserves at some point during the game which translated into them contributing 34 points scored and featured sophomore Erika Johnson and freshman N’Dea Bryant playing significant minutes up front.
With its next game coming up on the road against the Clemson Tigers, Hatchell wanted to provide her starters with some rest as well as providing her reserves meaningful time on the floor.
The North Carolina coach knows all too well how important depth will be in successfully competing against Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) teams this season.
“Every possession in every ACC game is going to be major,” she stated.
“We’ve got to be ready when we go down there on Sunday.”
Carolina Women’s Basketball Network
Follow the Raleigh Sports Examiner on Twitter @pksport
The Raleigh Sports Examiner – Sports with a Local Twist
Raleigh Sport Examiner – You Tube channel
Carolina Hurricanes Examiner page