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UNC overcomes 17-point second-half deficit

GREENSBORO, N.C. -- Trailing yet again in the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament, Ivory Latta never panicked.

"I looked in everyone's eyes and I had no doubt we were going to win this game," Latta said.

Then she set out to make sure North Carolina (No. 3 ESPN/USA Today, No. 4 AP) would get the victory, scoring a career-high 32 points to lead the Tar Heels to a comeback 78-72 win over Virginia in Sunday's semifinals.

"Ivory is a winner," North Carolina coach Sylvia Hatchell said. "She has so much heart ... and what she has is contagious."

Latta scored 19 points in the second half, including a spinning jumper with 34 seconds to play that gave North Carolina (26-3) the lead for good. The Tar Heels rallied from a 17-point second-half deficit to pull out the win and advance to the finals for the fourth consecutive year.

The Tar Heels will play No. 6 Duke, which is looking for its sixth consecutive tournament title. The Blue Devils have beaten North Carolina the past three years. North Carolina, the top seed, hasn't won an ACC tournament title since 1998.

"I'm just hoping we play a little better (in the final)," Hatchell said. "We haven't played very good."

North Carolina was out of sync offensively, and Virginia looked as if it would pull out the upset despite playing without All-ACC guard and second-leading scorer LaTonya Blue (ankle) and sophomore reserve Siedah Williams (knee).

Virginia coach Debbie Ryan said the Tar Heels were just too much to handle, adding that this team might be better than the 1994 squad that won the national championship.

"This team is so athletic and so strong and so quick," Ryan said. "And Latta is one of the finest point guards I've ever seen. Whenever a big shot needs to be taken, Latta takes it."

Latta took over late -- she scored 19 of her points in the second half -- and gave the Tar Heels the lead on her 14-foot jumper that made it 73-72 with 34 seconds to play.

After Latta's shot, Virginia unraveled. Jocelyn Logan-Friend had her shot blocked by Erlana Larkins, and Larkins then took the ball away from her and headed toward the other end of the court.

Logan-Friend got tangled up with Larkins in her pursuit, and Logan-Friend was called for an intentional foul as the two crashed to the court. She was fighting off tears as Larkins made both free throws for a 75-72 lead with nine seconds left.

Then Tiffany Sardin was called for an intentional foul against Virginia on the inbounds pass, and Nikita Bell went to the line for North Carolina. She made one of her two shots for a 76-72 lead.

Virginia had to foul again as soon as the Tar Heels inbounded the ball, and Latta went to the line this time for two free throws that locked up the win with eight seconds to play.

Bell finished with 18 points for North Carolina. Larkins added 13 and Camille Little scored 10.

Sardin led Virginia with 21 points, while Brandi Teamer had 18 and Logan-Friend added 16.