8:00 PM ET, December 3, 2006
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) -- Erlana Larkins didn't do much against Tennessee last time, and North Carolina teammate Ivory Latta wouldn't let her forget it.
"Although Ivory and everybody else said I needed to redeem myself, I tried not to think about that," Larkins said. "Brand new game. Brand new year."
And brand new result for Larkins -- even though the same team won.
Larkins had 17 points and 12 rebounds to lead No. 2 North Carolina to a 70-57 victory over No. 4 Tennessee on Sunday night.
Latta had 12 points and Camille Little added 11 for the Tar Heels (8-0), who never trailed in the second half, overcame a productive game from Candace Parker and claimed their first noteworthy nonconference win of the season.
It was a dramatically better performance than Larkins had in last season's Cleveland Regional finals. She was just 3-of-11 from the field with seven points in North Carolina's 75-63 victory over the Lady Vols that put the Tar Heels into the Final Four for just the second time in school history.
"I just think I did a better job of getting open," Larkins said.
Parker had a season-high 27 points and 10 rebounds to lead the Lady Vols (6-1), who entered 3-0 against ranked teams this season, but could neither keep up with the Tar Heels nor overcome a dry spell late in the first half.
North Carolina outrebounded the Lady Vols 43-33. Tennessee, which entered shooting 48 percent from 3-point range, was just 3-of-11 from beyond the arc.
"Obviously, we really struggled to put the ball in the hole. North Carolina had a lot to do with it," Tennessee coach Pat Summitt said. "We were just trying to get the ball inside and get three-point opportunities that way, since we were not shooting well from the outside."
After the Tar Heels won their first seven games by an average of 49 points, they treated their game against the Lady Vols as their first significant test -- one they passed by keeping Tennessee at bay for most of the second half.
"They don't have any weaknesses. We just made more shots than they did tonight," North Carolina coach Sylvia Hatchell said.
Parker's baseline layup with 18:13 remaining made it 30-all and gave Tennessee its first tie since midway through the first half.
"We figured she was going to get her points," Hatchell said.
But the Tar Heels scored nine straight: Larkins converted a three-point play and then hit a layup, Alex Miller nailed a 15-footer, and Jessica Breland took a feed from Latta and made a layup to make it 39-30 with 15:37 to play.
Only once more did Tennessee get as close as three -- Nicky Anosike's jumper with 12:51 left made it 41-38 -- and Latta led the Tar Heels' response by scoring seven points during a 9-2 spurt that pushed the lead to 10 points. Tennessee didn't get closer than five the rest of the way.
"We'd get back in it, and get back in it, and couldn't get over the hump," Parker said.
North Carolina started slowly but eventually dominated a sloppy first half. The Tar Heels led by as many as nine, took the lead for good on Rashanda McCants' 3-pointer midway through a 19-7 run and held the Lady Vols to three field goals during the final 14:41 of the half.
The Tar Heels led 30-25 at the break. The teams combined for more turnovers (31) and fouls (22) than field goals (21) in the opening 20 minutes.
"I thought it was too slow," Hatchell said. "I kept telling Ivory to push it. We were setting up too much. I wanted to push the ball more. I don't think we were as aggressive offensively as we needed to be."
Team Stat Comparison
|FG Made-Attempted||21-58 (.362)||28-62 (.452)|
|3P Made-Attempted||4-11 (.364)||5-14 (.357)|
|FT Made-Attempted||11-18 (.611)||9-14 (.643)|
|Fouls (Tech/Flagrant)||20 (0/0)||23 (0/0)|