Latta scores 26 points for Tar Heels in victory

BLACKSBURG, Va. (AP) -- Ivory Latta makes North Carolina go -- very fast.

"I just kept pushing the ball," Latta said Friday night after she had 26 points, five assists and only one turnover in North Carolina's 84-75 victory over Virginia Tech.

Not only does the point guard push the ball, but also the Tar Heels (No. 2 ESPN/USA Today, No. 3 AP), who completed their first unbeaten regular season on the road and are in good position heading into their final home games against Boston College (No. 20 ESPN/USA Today, No. 18 AP) and top-ranked Duke.

"I think that's why she's the best point guard in America," Tar Heels coach Sylvia Hatchell said. "In my opinion she is. A lot of other people agree with me. She can score, but she gets the ball to a lot of other people out there on the court.

"She's the little engine that makes us go."

Latta hit four 3-pointers, and Camille Little scored seven of her 16 points in an early second-half run that allowed the Tar Heels (24-1, 11-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) to get comfortable against the Hokies. Erlana Larkins added 17 points for North Carolina and La'Tangela Atkinson added 10 points and nine rebounds.

But Latta was the one the Hokies had the most trouble containing.

"That's Ivory," said Hokies forward Kerri Gardin, who had 11 points and eight rebounds. "She's always been like that ever since I played with her and played against her. She really gets into it and likes to have some fun. She's also very serious and very competitive when it comes to game time."

Dawn Chriss led Virginia Tech (17-7, 4-7 ACC) with 18 points and Kirby Copeland added 16. The Hokies shot 39 percent to the Tar Heels' 53 percent and were 0-for-6 on 3-pointers. North Carolina was 7-for-17.

North Carolina led 40-29 at halftime and used a 14-4 run to stretch its lead to 54-33. Little's steal and layup gave North Carolina its first 20-point advantage.

"I think if we can find a way to eliminate some of those runs, we are right in the thick of things at the end," Hokies coach Beth Dunkenberger said.

The Hokies closed to 68-56 with 8:21 to play as Laura Haskins capped an 8-0 run with two free throws, but a three-point play by Larkins and two 3-pointers by Latta quickly rebuilt the lead to 20 and Virginia Tech didn't challenge again.