CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) -- North Carolina plays hard and fast, with tall, athletic players. Some people mistake that for simply being physical, a reputation disputed by coach Sylvia Hatchell.
"People think we're physical, but we're athletic and we get after it," Hatchell said. "I don't think we're as physical as people think we are. We're not fouling, we're just frustrating the other team."
That frustration went a little farther than Hatchell would have liked, with two of her players leaving after taking blows to the face during the Tar Heels' 83-61 victory over Wake Forest on Thursday night.
La'Tangela Atkinson and Leah Metcalf suffered what the team classified as "facial contusions." Metcalf took an elbow to the face from Wake Forest's Cotelia Bond-Young in the final minute and stayed prone on the court while the action continued on the other end, and teammate Erlana Larkins came out to attend to her.
Finally, play was stopped, and Metcalf was helped to the locker room.
"I was concerned about my teammate," Larkins said. "When I saw her fall, I said, 'Oh, no,' and just on instinct, I wanted to run out there and check on her."
Larkins scored 18 points, Ivory Latta added 16 points and North Carolina (No. 5 ESPN/USA Today, No. 12 AP) avoided a letdown after snapping a 12-game losing streak to top-ranked Duke earlier in the week. The Tar Heels (16-3, 4-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) used a dominating defense to hold the Blue Devils to a season-low point total in a 56-51 victory and were every bit as stingy against the Demon Deacons (13-6, 2-4).
"This is the best league in the country," Wake Forest coach Mike Petersen said. "You're not going to catch somebody at a good time. Every game is going to be a battle. Every game, you've got to come out ready to play."
Only a late flurry kept Wake Forest from suffering the same fate as Duke. Bond-Young had 13 of her 14 points during one brilliant five-minute span in the first half, but second-leading scorer Liz Strunk struggled throughout.
In the previous game against Clemson, she had a career-high 30 points, including six 3s. She shot only 2-of-10 in this one and scored nine points. Point guard Porsche Jones added 12 points but also had 11 turnovers.
"I just didn't take care of the ball, period," Jones said.
The Deacons changed their starting lineup for the first time this season, with Christen Brown replacing the injured Keila Evans (foot). For a while, the new-look team held its own and actually led 29-26 with about 5½ minutes left in the first half.
But Latta swished a jumper from behind the arc and then added two free throws when Petersen was called for a technical. Latta added another 3, LaToya Pringle made a jumper and Camille Little connected from deep to make it 39-29.
"We knew they were a good team," said Little, who scored 13 points. "We just had to come out and be mentally prepared."
The Deacons' struggles on offense were highlighted on the ensuing possession, when Erin Ferrell and Jennifer Johnson both shot airballs before they turned it over on a shot-clock violation.
Later, North Carolina's Nikita Bell had a steal and drove for layup, forcing a timeout by Petersen.
Maya Bennett finally snapped the cold spell with a free throw, and the final minute of the half went about as well as Wake Forest could have hoped. Johnson scored to cut the lead to 10, and the Tar Heels had a turnover while holding for the last shot.
Bond-Young immediately was fouled, and she went 1-of-2 from the line to leave the margin at nine.
North Carolina took control soon after the break. Larkins worked inside for a couple of layups, and Latta and Little completed the 9-2 run to increase the lead to 50-35. Later, a 13-2 spurt finished off the Deacons, with Kenya McBee contributing her only two baskets of the game.
"It was rough, tough and physical," Hatchell said. "It wasn't real pretty at times. I thought overall, we were pretty balanced with what we were trying to do. Typical ACC, I guess."