CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – Tierra Ruffin-Pratt matched her career high with 24 points to help No. 16 North Carolina beat North Carolina State 68-58 on Sunday.
Fellow senior Waltiea Rolle added 21 points and 11 rebounds for the Tar Heels (25-4, 13-3 Atlantic Coast Conference), who beat their nearby rival for the 23rd time in 27 meetings. Ruffin-Pratt and Rolle both came up big during a 7-0 spurt that finally helped North Carolina build a cushion against the Wolfpack (13-15, 5-11), though the Tar Heels had to fight to the final minute to secure the win.
Marissa Kastanek scored 17 to lead the Wolfpack, who led by six early after halftime and trailed 54-53 with 6 minutes left before UNC's decisive spurt.
Even then, N.C. State had chances only to come up empty on three straight possessions with the shot to make it a one-possession game and finished just 8-for-15 shooting free throws.
With UNC protecting its one-point lead, Ruffin-Pratt started the 7-0 run by penetrating and finding Rolle for a layup. Then, after a turnover, Megan Buckland found a trailing Rolle for a layup that came despite Wolfpack guard Len'Nique Brown hanging on the 6-foot-6 center's left arm.
Ruffin-Pratt followed that three-point play with a confident pull-up jumper in the paint at the 5-minute mark that made it 61-53, a margin that wouldn't get closer than five again. N.C. State managed just one field goal in the last 7 minutes of the game.
Ruffin-Pratt finished 9 for 17 from the field to go with three assists and three steals in 32 minutes. Rolle went 7 for 14 from the field and had three blocks in 31 minutes.
North Carolina shot just 39 percent (25 of 64), including a 3-for-18 stretch over 14 minutes spanning halftime as the Wolfpack pushed ahead, and missed all nine 3-point tries. But the Tar Heels forced 31 turnovers and converted them into 31 points to offset their own shaky shooting as well as N.C. State's 44-39 rebounding advantage.
The Wolfpack, who led 33-32 at halftime, and shot 38 percent (23 of 60) for the game.
N.C. State played without junior guard Myisha Goodwin-Coleman, who is suspended indefinitely for conduct detrimental to the team.