Tar Heels set up ACC showdown with top-ranked Duke

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) -- Second-ranked North Carolina can start thinking about No. 1 Duke again.

Ivory Latta had 23 points and a career-high nine steals to lead the Tar Heels past Boston College 69-62 on Monday night, their last hurdle before hosting the Blue Devils in a weekend game that will likely determine the Atlantic Coast Conference's regular-season title.

Camille Little added 16 points for the Tar Heels (25-1, 12-1 ACC), who had a tough time putting away the Eagles (No. 20 ESPN/USA Today, No. 17 AP). They allowed an opponent to shoot 50 percent for just the second time this year -- including eight 3-pointers -- and were outrebounded for the seventh time in 10 games.

That's why Latta and Little sounded more focused on something other than the Blue Devils for now.

"I'm looking to practice Wednesday," Little said. "I'm not looking to Duke because I know we're going to have a hard practice."

Still -- even if they didn't look sharp much of the way -- the Tar Heels remained in control throughout. They forced 25 turnovers, 18 coming on steals, and earned the program's ninth 25-win season in 13 years.

The Tar Heels were coming off Friday's 84-75 win at Virginia Tech, improving to 12-0 away from Carmichael Auditorium to mark the first time in program history that North Carolina went unbeaten on the road in the regular season.

One of those road wins came against the Blue Devils, who must beat the Hokies at home Wednesday to finish their part of setting up the 1-vs.-2 matchup. The Tar Heels rallied from 16 down to hand Duke its only loss last month, which gave North Carolina its first No. 1 ranking.

Another win -- which would be the fifth straight in the series -- would give North Carolina the top seed in the ACC tournament for the second straight year.

But coach Sylvia Hatchell figures the Tar Heels have to correct some things first. Her team had trouble consistently getting easy baskets in transition or inside against Boston College's physical front line, with sophomore Erlana Larkins scoring 10 points on 2-for-9 shooting.

Hatchell seemed even more troubled by the Eagles' 32-29 edge on the boards, an area she emphasizes repeatedly each year.

"We didn't rebound again like I wanted us to and that's the only area of our game that I feel like we've really got to step up there," Hatchell said. "If we want to be a championship team, we've got to make a commitment to rebounding."

But the Tar Heels used a 12-point spurt to go ahead to stay after falling in an early seven-point hole -- forcing six straight turnovers during that run -- and using a 10-2 run after the break to stay in control and take a 52-40 lead with 10:55 left.

Latta made the biggest play to cap that run, which also summed up the Eagles' struggles protecting the basketball. The 5-foot-6 guard got caught defending 6-4 Lisa Macchia in the post, but she managed to strip Macchia as she turned to shoot in the lane. Latta quickly corralled the loose ball and pushed it upcourt -- smiling as she crossed halfcourt -- for a layup and the 12-point lead.

Then, after Boston College (19-8, 6-6) closed to 52-46, Latta knocked down a jumper and hit a hanging layup off the glass to push the margin back to 10.

Boston College coach Cathy Inglese said the Eagles spent about two days in practice working on ways to handle North Carolina's aggressive trapping defense, including scrimmaging against men. The work paid off for stretches, with the Eagles passing out of double-teams and knocking down open shots on the perimeter.

Kindyll Dorsey led that effort, scoring a team-high 22 points and hitting four 3-pointers. In addition, leading scorer Brooke Queenan, who played just 6 first-half minutes due to foul trouble, and Laura Lokitis each hit two 3s.

But Boston College offset those gains by piling up the turnovers.

"We practiced with the guys," Dorsey said. "But with their chemistry, [the Tar Heels] know when to trap. ... We weren't consistent with it. We would get great ball movement and open shots, but sometimes we'd be tentative and turn the ball over."