8:00 PM ET, February 27, 2005
DURHAM, N.C. (AP) -- Ivory Latta had enough talent as an eighth-grader to draw the attention of North Carolina coach Sylvia Hatchell. Often brilliant but just as often a liability, the speedy point guard had plenty of ups-and-downs a season ago as a freshman.A year of experience -- not to mention one summer of hard work -- changed all that."Last year, I made a commitment to her, and I knew the more experience we could give her, the better she would be," Hatchell said. "I think this year, she's very confident out there."Latta swished a go-ahead 3-pointer and Nikita Bell came up a steal short of the first triple-double in school history, helping the Tar Heels (No. 4 ESPN/USA Today, No. 8 AP) hold off Duke (No. 3 ESPN/USA Today, No. 2 AP) 77-68 Sunday night to end the longest home winning streak in conference history.Latta scored 23 points and freshman Erlana Larkins had 19 for the Tar Heels (24-3, 12-2), who completed a season sweep of their Tobacco Road rival to clinch the top seed in the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament. Bell finished with 14 points, 11 rebounds and nine steals.For the first time since 1997, North Carolina won at Cameron Indoor Stadium, where Duke had won 33 straight in the conference and 20 in a row overall."I'm just really proud we stayed together," Bell said. "I guess we have the reputation of giving up when we get down. We stayed together and followed through with the game plan. We just knew what it took to win. It's about us and how we perform on the court."The Blue Devils (26-3, 12-2) didn't have enough to keep the streak going. Leading scorer Monique Currie, hobbled with stress fractures to two bones in her left foot, scored 22 points on 9-of-18 shooting, but had eight of Duke's 25 turnovers.Still, she led a second-half rally to give the Blue Devils their first lead since the opening minute. She made two jumpers and a 3-pointer, and Mistie Williams added another basket to make it 58-54 with about 5½ minutes left."We had been looking to go on a run, because we couldn't get things going," Currie said. "Every time we would get up, they would hit a big shot, so once we got up a couple of points, we thought that we could keep it up."It didn't happen. After the Tar Heels came back to tie it, Latta worked off a high screen by Larkins and found herself alone on the wing. She never hesitated, and her high-arching shot from a couple of steps behind the line dropped through for a 66-63 lead."Coach told me, 'If they go under, take your shot," Latta said. "That's what I was mostly looking for. I just stepped up and took a big shot, and I felt very confident about it."A breakdown in the defense left her open."We were supposed to trap that screen on the ball up top," Duke coach Gail Goestenkors said. "We didn't do it, and she made us pay for it."Jessica Foley missed a 3 at the other end, and North Carolina ran down the shot clock before Latta was fouled. The leading free throw shooter in the ACC made both for a five-point lead, and that was as close as Duke got the rest of the way."It was a great game," Hatchell said. "It could have gone either way, and I'm sure we both learned a lot from this. I'm just proud of my team."Freshman point guard Wanisha Smith had 13 points and center Alison Bales added 10 points and eight blocks for the Blue Devils, who didn't win the regular season outright for the first time in five years."It's just one of those humps we wanted to get over, and we did," Bell said. "We can't stop here. We've got to keep it going."Camille Little scored 15 for the Tar Heels, and La'Tangela Atkinson had 10 rebounds.
Team Stat Comparison
|FG Made-Attempted||23-56 (.411)||27-59 (.458)|
|3P Made-Attempted||4-18 (.222)||8-20 (.400)|
|FT Made-Attempted||27-31 (.871)||6-12 (.500)|
|Fouls (Tech/Flagrant)||17 (0/0)||25 (0/0)|