7:00 PM ET, December 2, 2005
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) -- North Carolina (No. 8 ESPN/USA Today; No. 7 AP) got its toughest challenge at home this season -- and still won by 24.
Ivory Latta scored 16 points and Rashanda McCants added 14 to lift the Tar Heels to a 71-47 victory Friday night over previously unbeaten South Florida.
South Florida made just 19 of 55 shots (34.5 percent) but stayed closer on the Tar Heels' home court than any other opponent this season. North Carolina beat its first four visitors by an average of 45.8 points.
"It was good for us to play a game like this," North Carolina coach Sylvia Hatchell said. "This is the sort of game that is going to help us prepare for Monday night."
Erlana Larkins had 11 points for North Carolina (7-0), and La'Tangela Atkinson scored nine and grabbed 10 rebounds before fouling out with 6:49 to play.
Jessica Dickson led South Florida (5-1) with 18 points, and Shantia Grace added 14.
Latta and McCants each had three 3-pointers for North Carolina.
"They were packing it back inside pretty good," Hatchell said. "We normally like to look inside, but sometimes you just have to take the outside shot. Ivory hit some big baskets that really helped open things up for us."
North Carolina made five 3-pointers, two by Latta, on the way to a 32-17 halftime lead. Latta had 11 points in the first half, shooting 4-of-9 from the field.
South Florida repeatedly tried a 2-3 zone on the Tar Heels.
"I just didn't think we could match up with their depth and athleticism," coach Jose Fernandez said. "We're missing two starters from our lineup. We only played six kids, really, for most of the game. They played 11."
South Florida led 8-5 after hitting four of its first five shots, then missed its next 14 over a span of 13:29. The Tar Heels used a 17-2 run during the Bulls' drought to take a 22-10 advantage.
South Florida failed to make a second-half basket until 7:30 elapsed. Already leading 34-20, North Carolina got five points from Latta and six from McCants in a 12-0 run that made it a rout.
A free throw by McCants with 12:53 left gave North Carolina a 46-20 lead. The Tar Heels took their biggest lead, 62-28, on McCants' last 3-pointer, coming with 7:02 remaining.
The win was North Carolina's third in four days. The Tar Heels play at Connecticut (No. 6 ESPN/USA Today; No. 8 AP) on Monday.
Last season, the Tar Heels beat Connecticut 71-65 in Raleigh.
"I know we're going to have a bull's-eye on our backs up there," Latta said. "They were the defending national champions, and that was a really big win for us."