IOWA CITY — As sophomores, Morgan Johnson and Jaime Printy saw an undefeated start to their season clipped at the hands of the North Carolina Tar Heels.
Sunday must have looked awfully familiar to the two Iowa seniors.
Tournament most valuable player Tierra Ruffin-Pratt led all scorers with 22 points as the North Carolina Tar Heels claimed their second preseason WNIT championship in four years with a 77-64 win over the Iowa Hawkeyes before a crowd of 3,073 at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
“They came out and just played much harder than we did in the first half, much more composed than we were in the first half,” Iowa head coach Lisa Bluder said. “It was pretty much a miserable first half for us.”
The Tar Heels (4-0) used an aggressive full-court press to contest Iowa passes and inbounds plays, harassing the Hawkeyes into 15 first-half turnovers, resulting in 19 points.
“I think their size scared us a little bit, made it hard for us to pass over them a little bit,” Bluder said. “I just think they took us out of it mentally with how hard it was for us to inbound the ball. They shook us mentally in that area.”
Johnson led the Hawkeyes (3-1) with 20 points and 11 rebounds, but was held scoreless for the final 9:26 of the first half as the Tar Heels extended their lead from seven to 47-25 at the break. In the second half, the Hawkeyes could get no closer than 12.
“I think they did a good job denying the ball from the top,” said Johnson, whose two blocks leave her one shy of Tangela Smith’s school record of 235. “I think we were getting frustrated, we had a couple turnovers so we didn’t get the opportunity to get the ball to get a look inside.”
Printy returned to the starting lineup for the first time since tearing her ACL in February at Wisconsin and scored 12 points on 3-of-15 shooting. Printy had averaged 12.6 points in three games coming off the bench.
“Yeah, it felt good,” Printy said of her return to the starting lineup. “I really didn’t think anything of it. Whether I’m in it or not in it, I try to do whatever I can to help the team.”
Both Johnson and Printy were voted to the all-tournament team. The Hawkeyes have a quick turnaround, hosting Robert Morris Tuesday at 7.
“I thought this was really good for us, to get four games this early in the year, especially the last two against quality opponents,” Bluder said of the tournament format. “I just think it’s going to help us down the line because we’re going to face a lot more good teams like this.”