CHAPEL HILL --- Tierra Ruffin-Pratt scored a career-high 24 points and North Carolina rallied from an 11-point halftime deficit to defeat Duquesne, 62-58, Sunday afternoon at Carmichael Arena. Krista Gross and Waltiea Rolle added double-doubles for the Tar Heels, who will host Georgetown Wednesday at 7 for a spot in the Preseason WNIT final.
Duquesne led 35-26 at the break and by as many as 14 in the first half before Carolina mounted its comeback. Ruffin-Pratt scored UNC's first 11 points of the second half and 17 in the frame as the Tar Heels won despite just one made field goal in the final 12 minutes of the game.
It was a physical showdown throughout with 50 total fouls called and six players disqualified. Ultimately it was free throw shooting - Carolina outscored Duquesne from the line 22-13 - and rebounding - the Tar Heels won the battle on the boards by two despite being down 22-15 after 20 minutes - that decided the outcome.
Orsi Szecsi led the Dukes (1-1) with 17 points and 13 rebounds, but scored just five after halftime and fouled out with 3:44 remaining.
Duquesne used some hot outside shooting to build a big early lead. The Dukes were 5 of 10 from beyond the arc in the first half, and April Robinson's triple with 6:56 left in the first half gave the visitors from the Atlantic-10 their biggest lead at 32-18.
Despite Ruffin-Pratt's prolific start to the second half, the Tar Heel deficit was still five after Szecsi's three-pointer with 10:03 to go. But UNC, which won just three times in 2011-12 after trailing at the break, prevailed with some dutiful work on the glass.
Xylina McDaniel's free throw with 5:57 to go tied the game for the first time since it was 2-2 and Gross got to the line for a pair after an offensive rebound less than a minute later. Gross knocked down both for Carolina's first lead of the second half and the Tar Heels made just enough stops down the stretch to hold off the Dukes.
Duquesne had the ball with a chance to tie with under 30 seconds left in regulation but Oditte Odisho's long 2 missed the mark and Brittany Rountree iced it with a pair from the foul line.
Next up for Carolina is Georgetown, who was a 62-56 winner over No. 11 Delaware Sunday afternoon. The Hoyas, who played in the NCAA Tournament in Chapel Hill last season, were led by 35 points from senior Sugar Rodgers.