8:30 PM ET, January 14, 2005
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.