7:00 PM ET, February 4, 2005
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) -- Sylvia Hatchell celebrated her latest milestone in the same low-key style that defines her career, enjoying a piece of cake in the locker room and accepting the congratulations from her surprised players."She's so humble, and of course, she didn't tell us," North Carolina guard Nikita Bell said. "We had to hear it from somebody else." The Tar Heels (No. 6 ESPN/USA Today; No. 9 AP) gave Hatchell her 400th victory at the school, getting a career-high 24 points from Erlana Larkins and forcing 35 turnovers to beat Clemson 99-55 Friday night. In her 19th season, Hatchell now is 400-185 in Chapel Hill (672-265 overall), a total that includes the 1994 national championship. At this point, she simply feels fortunate to have kept her job so long, since she struggled at the beginning of her career. She had a 64-78 record in her first five seasons with the Tar Heels. "Nowadays, not many schools put up with that," Hatchell said. "Thanks goodness, I think they saw we're turning the corner." North Carolina (18-3, 6-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) finished with 23 steals and 25 assists, both highs in the ACC this season. Bell added 14 points and LaToya Pringle finished with 12. The final margin in this one was the largest in what is fast becoming a lopsided series, surpassing a 72-41 victory last season for North Carolina. The Tar Heels shot 53 percent and beat the Tigers (7-13, 1-7) for the eighth straight time. Of course, that shooting effort was helped by an incredible 26 layups, and Larkins never strayed farther than a few feet from the basket for any of her points. "Although I kept scoring, they just decided to play in front of me," Larkins said. "I just think it was easy because of the way they played me." D'Lesha Lloyd and Julie Talley each had 15 points for the Tigers. Searching for answers after a six-game losing streak, Clemson coach Jim Davis went with his 13th different starting lineup of the season, and it paid off early. Maxienne White had eight points in the first 5½ minutes of her second start and the Tigers were within one, but it quickly fell apart. "It wasn't much of a game," Davis said. "I'm embarrassed, I'm embarrassed for our university and our basketball program. It's nobody's fault but my own. I haven't brought this team along anything like I should have." Bell started a 14-3 run for North Carolina with -- what else? -- a layup, and then 10 unanswered points later in the half made it 41-24. Soon after the break, the Tar Heels poured it on, scoring their first 14 baskets from right next to the rim. "We weren't playing defense," Talley said. "They just were shooting layup after layup." The only drama in the final minutes came from North Carolina's pursuit of its first 100-point game of the season. Alas, little-used senior Jennifer Nelms closed out the scoring with two free throws with 20.5 seconds left, and Clemson at least avoided that indignity. "This is not a typical Clemson team," Hatchell said. "I know they're working hard, this is probably just a little bit of a down year for them." Davis spent most of the final minutes simply leaning back in his chair on the sidelines, his legs crossed and his hands locked behind his head. The Tigers used three timeouts in the first 5 minutes of the second half, but nothing slowed down the Tar Heels. Each North Carolina player that saw action scored. "We obviously haven't grown as a basketball team," Davis said. "This is a basketball team that is just not competitive. There's no other way you can put it. We allowed them to do what they wanted to do far too easily."