CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) — Tierra Ruffin-Pratt played much of her freshman season wearing braces on both shoulders as she got used to the rigors of college basketball.
Now that the braces are off, the sophomore wing forward for No. 14 North Carolina looks like she’s ready for big things.
Italee Lucas led the way with 16 points while Ruffin-Pratt added 13 and a career-high 14 rebounds, sparking the Tar Heels to a 76-47 win over Robert Morris on Wednesday night.
“Without the braces I guess there’s more confidence in me going to the basket,” Ruffin-Pratt said. “They’re throwing me perfect passes so it’s hard for me not to make shots. I feel a lot comfortable. The braces kind of held me down a little bit. Now that I have them off I’m going to the basket a lot harder.”
Cetera DeGraffenreid added 12 points, Jessica Breland 11 and Waltiea Rolle 10 for the 2-0 Tar Heels, who have won all four meetings in the series.
“Pratt had a good game,” UNC coach Sylvia Hatchell said. “It was good to get that out of that position. This was probably her best game. I knew she was capable of doing it. Last year there were just too many things with her shoulders and all that. But she’s worked hard. She could be even more aggressive offensively and I think she will be as we move along.”
Breland, a senior forward, was playing in her second game since sitting out last season with Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
“Everything’s coming along,” Breland said. “I’m trying to get the wrinkles out of everything. As a team I think, outside of this game, we’re doing good. We’re playing together and that’s a good thing because when you play big teams it’s not going to be just one person we need to stop. It’s going to be multiple players. I’m trying to get back in the swing of things. It’s different from playing pickup with your teammates. Playing in a real game, I have to get used to how everything used to be and get back into the flow of that.”
Latvian guard Kristine Silaraja had 20 points and Dominican guard Yohanna Morton 11 for Robert Morris (0-2), which has seven players from outside the United States on its roster.
UNC shot 46 percent from the floor to RMU’s 31, won the rebound battle 49-39 and committed 10 turnovers to the visitors’ 19.
“We knew they (the Colonials) were going to be a good shooting team,” UNC coach Sylvia Hatchell said. “They’ve got some kids, especially their foreign kids who are nice players and make shots.”
The Tar Heels took control from the outset, going up 16-2 on a Lucas 3-pointer with 15:15 left in the first half.
The Colonials trailed 40-24 on a Silaraja layup with 19:51 to go, but the Tar Heels scored the next 10 points including Chay Shegog’s turnaround with 14:58 left to put the game away.
“It’s great experience for the young ladies to play a team at this level,” Colonials coach Sal Buscaglia said. “It only makes you better. It puts you in a situation where focus is going to be the main thing. You’ve got to bring everything to the court.”