12:00 PM ET, March 5, 2005
GREENSBORO, N.C. (AP) -- Ivory Latta scored 19 points and hit the go-ahead 3-pointer Saturday to help North Carolina (No. 3 ESPN/USA Today; No. 4 AP) avoid an upset with a 64-57 win over Miami in the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament quarterfinals. Nikita Bell added 13 points and eight rebounds for the top-seeded Tar Heels (25-3), who trailed most of the way before making a late run to reach Sunday's semifinals. Tamara James had 13 points and 14 rebounds for the ninth-seeded Hurricanes (13-16), who led by as many as 10 points in the first half and held a three-point edge with 2½ minutes to play. The Tar Heels -- the top seed for the first time in eight years -- have high hopes of winning their first tournament title since 1998. But they very nearly saw those dreams end abruptly against a team they beat by 31 points in the regular season. They shot just 29 percent and went 18-for-28 at the line, struggling to overcome a determined effort by the Hurricanes. North Carolina trailed 55-52 late before going on a 9-0 run, led by Latta and Bell. First Latta hit two free throws to cut the deficit to one point, then hit a 3-pointer off a feed from Bell for a 57-55 lead with 2:08 left. Bell then came up with two big plays. With North Carolina struggling much of the day against Miami's zone defense, Bell flashed to the top of the key to catch the ball, then made a spinning move to the basket for a 59-55 lead with 1:33 left. After a Miami timeout, Bell stole a pass near midcourt for a breakaway attempt. She missed the layup, but Camille Little got the rebound and picked up the fifth foul on James with 1:19 left. Little closed the run with two free throws, giving the Tar Heels a 61-55 edge. Miami advanced to the quarterfinals with a 60-58 win over Georgia Tech, when James caught a halfcourt heave and banked in a shot at the buzzer. Despite playing that tough game only 24 hours earlier, the Hurricanes showed so signs of fatigue early and jumped to the lead. Their zone defense shut down Erlana Larkins and the Tar Heels' inside game, though North Carolina certainly didn't help itself with 10 turnovers in the first eight minutes. The Tar Heels also missed their first 10 shots, going without a field goal for the game's first seven minutes. James and Miami took advantage, taking a 16-6 lead on a 3-pointer from Katie Hayek midway through the half. The Tar Heels, who came in averaging 80 points a game, didn't take their first lead until Larkins completed a three-point play to make it 46-45 with 9:26 left. Miami responded with a run to push the lead back to six, but couldn't hold off the Tar Heels down the stretch.