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Larkins hits career-high 23 for Tar Heels

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) -- North Carolina's youngsters came through
when the Tar Heels needed them.
Freshman Erlana Larkins scored a career-high 23 points while
sophomore Ivory Latta added 18 to help the Tar Heels (No. 8 ESPN/USA Today; No. 9 AP) rally to
beat North Carolina State 77-75 on Friday night.
Latta also hit two key free throws late for North Carolina
(13-2, 1-1 Atlantic Coast Conference), which rallied from 11 down
in the second half by shooting 64 percent after the break.
Sophomore Camille Little, last year's ACC rookie of the year, added
nine second-half points.
"I just thought we played with a lot of heart," North Carolina
coach Sylvia Hatchell said. "I think our kids dug deep when they
had to. … We were fortunate to pull that out."
Khadija Whittington and Billie McDowell each scored 20 points to
lead the Wolfpack (12-4, 1-2), who were without longtime coach Kay
Yow. A member of the Naismith Hall of Fame who earned her 600th win
at the school last month, Yow is being treated for a recurrence of
breast cancer that was first diagnosed in 1987.
She is expected to miss two games, which are believed to be the
first she has missed since taking over the program before the
1975-76 season.
"Credit our players -- they battled and battled to the end,"
said Stephanie Glance, the Wolfpack's associate head coach who is
leading the team in Yow's absence. "They're very disappointed
because they're worried that they let Coach Yow down. But no way
did they let Coach Yow down.
"Her expectation is we give our best, that we play hard every
time we go on the floor, and that's what they did tonight."
N.C. State led 53-42 with about 12 minutes to play, but the Tar
Heels continued pounding the ball inside. Eventually, their shots
started falling and they got to the free-throw line.
North Carolina went 16-for-19 at the line in the second half and
26-for-32 overall in the physical game.
Larkins injured her right ankle while battling inside early in
the game, while the 5-foot-6 Latta repeatedly was banged around and
limping by game's end. At one point, she was knocked to the ground
on a drive and banged her head on the Reynolds Coliseum hardwood.
"You can look at me and tell it was very physical," Latta said
with a laugh. "But I just knew I couldn't let that get to me."
The Tar Heels went ahead to stay when Latta found the 6-2
Larkins inside for a 75-74 lead with 2:05 to play. Latta then made
two key plays to give the Tar Heels their first ACC win.
First, she drew an offensive foul on a screen from Sasha Reaves
with 20.7 seconds left. She followed that with two free throws that
pushed the margin to 77-74.
The Wolfpack had several chances late, the best coming when
Rachel Stockdale drew a foul on a 3-pointer with 6.5 seconds left.
Stockdale hit the first free throw but missed the second, forcing
the Wolfpack to intentionally miss the third and try for the
offensive rebound.
Whittington grabbed the rebound, but missed two shots in a crowd
before the ball went out to N.C. State with 1.1 seconds left. On
the ensuing inbound pass, Ashley Key didn't get the final shot off
in time, giving the Tar Heels their fourth straight road win in the
series.
North Carolina managed a 38-25 rebounding advantage, including
19 offensive boards that led to 21 second-chance points. The teams
combined for 41 personal fouls and 49 free throws.
"It was a physical game," Whittington said. "You can expect
that. We're rivals. You've just got to play through it, all the
contact."
It was a disappointing loss for the Wolfpack on a night the
school honored its missing coach.
Before the game, the school distributed 4,000 pink bracelets to
fans, while N.C. State's players wore pink shoelaces to honor Yow.
The Tar Heels also participated, wearing pink ribbons -- the symbol
of breast cancer awareness -- on their shorts.
Yow had surgery last month to treat what the school called a
"limited tumor recurrence," and she has undergone radiation,
hormone therapy and diet modification.