Coppin State loses in first NCAA appearance

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) -- North Carolina simply hopped on a campus shuttle to get to its NCAA Tournament first-round game. And the Tar Heels certainly looked comfortable in a familiar setting.

Ivory Latta scored 27 points and the top-seeded Tar Heels used an early 25-0 run Sunday night to beat Coppin State 97-62 in the Tempe Regional.

Camille Little added 17 points for the Tar Heels (28-3), who have won 14 straight games since a loss at Florida State in January. North Carolina advanced to face ninth-seeded George Washington, a 60-57 winner over Mississippi.

Sherrie Tucker scored 14 points to lead the 16th-seeded Lady Eagles (23-8) in their first NCAA Tournament game.

North Carolina is a No. 1 seed for the first time since 1997 and is seeking to make it out of the tournament's opening weekend for the first time in three years. The Tar Heels lost a second-round game at Colorado in 2003 and were upset as a No. 4 seed in the first round last year by Middle Tennessee.

"We did some more game-type things to prepare," coach Sylvia Hatchell said. "We learned from the past and so we did some things that had us more ready to play this time."

Of course, the Tar Heels also had the home-court advantage.

The Tar Heels beat Duke, Old Dominion and North Carolina State this season at the Smith Center, the program's alternate home court at the southern end of the Chapel Hill campus. So they looked right at home in the 21,800-seat arena, which is roughly double the size of their normal home court, Carmichael Auditorium.

North Carolina hadn't played since beating the Blue Devils in the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament final two weeks ago, but the Tar Heels hit 13 of their first 14 shots -- including their first five 3-pointers -- to put Sunday's game out of reach in the first 10 minutes.

The Tar Heels probably had more trouble getting to the on-campus arena than handling anything Coppin State could throw at them. They set season highs with 62 percent shooting and 12 3-pointers and had five players in double figures.

"I think we have a feel for the gym, of course," Little said. "It's kind of like a home court even though we knew it was for the tournament. It's like a home gym for us."

That fact was not lost on the Lady Eagles, the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference tournament champions.

"They didn't play all their home games in this place, but they were very comfortable," Coppin State coach Derek Brown said. "I just think that's extremely unfair."

Denita Plain, who scored eight points, agreed but added, "You get a 16 seed, that's the odds you have to face."

The Tar Heels rolled to a 54-21 lead at the break on 71 percent shooting and pushed the lead to as many as 43 points in the second half. North Carolina also scored 31 points off 27 turnovers forced by their aggressive trapping defense.

Latta finished 9-for-13 from the field with five 3-pointers, her third straight game with at least 26 points. It was a good way to erase memories of her five-point, 1-for-13 shooting performance in the 67-62 loss to Middle Tennessee last year.

The Tar Heels have had little trouble advancing when playing in Chapel Hill, where they are 17-1 in NCAA first- and second-round games. Their only defeat came against Old Dominion in the 1987 second round.

Early in the second half, several members of the North Carolina men's basketball team -- including coach Roy Williams -- filed into the stands to watch the game. The men's team had arrived from Charlotte, where it beat Iowa State to reach the NCAA round of 16 earlier Sunday.

North Carolina was the only school to have both its men's and women's basketball teams earn No. 1 seeds in the NCAA Tournament.