6:00 PM ET, December 18, 2006
MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (AP) -- Ivory Latta loves playing in her home state. And that usually means good things for North Carolina.Latta, a South Carolina native, matched her season high with 21 points and the second-ranked Tar Heels won their 12th straight to remain undefeated with an 87-48 victory over Coastal Carolina on Monday night."I love everything about being here," said Latta, who is from McConnells near the North Carolina border. "The smell, the feel, seeing my family in the stands. I can't wait to come play these games."Latta was South Carolina's all-time leading prep scorer, boys or girls, at York Comprehensive. Since leaving for college, Latta has led the Tar Heels to four victories at the Myrtle Beach Convention Center -- an arena where Latta has had some memorable performances.She scored 53 points as a York senior during a holiday tournament here in 2002. When she returned the first time with North Carolina, Latta put up 16 points to beat South Carolina. She set her college high of 13 assists the next season against Georgia State. Then had 22 points a year ago as the Tar Heels defeated nationally ranked Vanderbilt.Against Coastal Carolina (5-4), Latta was on target throughout. She hit 7-of-9 from the field, including two wide-open 3-pointers to help the Tar Heels close the first half with an 18-1 run.Latta "really enjoys playing these," North Carolina coach Sylvia Hatchell said. "You can tell."So much so that Hatchell arranged one more -- North Carolina plays St. John's at the convention center on Wednesday night.Despite North Carolina's large halftime lead, Latta kept up the pace after the break. She added a 3-pointer, two foul shots and a driving basket as North Carolina went ahead 67-27 lead with 14:32 remaining. She came out with about 10 minutes to go, yelling encouragement and instructions from the bench.For Latta, the trip to her home state added some spice to the Tar Heels' early stretch before they start the Atlantic Coast Conference season.North Carolina opened 22-0 a year ago, rising to No. 1. But the championship run ended in the Final Four with a loss to eventual winner Maryland.Latta said it's hard to ramp up the intensity through the early part of the season when the biggest games are still to come. "But we've got to approach it that way now, or it may not matter later on," she said.Lacey Lyons had five 3-pointers and 19 points to lead Coastal Carolina (5-4), which fell to 0-10 all-time against North Carolina.The Tar Heels put this one away quickly. Rashanda McCants opened with a 3-pointer 11 seconds in and North Carolina scored the game's first nine points and gradually stretched out the lead.McCants hit another 3-pointer to make it 23-9.The Chants got no closer than 27-17 on the third of Lyons' three first-half 3-pointers with 9:13 to go. But North Carolina's pressure defense and relentless attack led to the run that closed out the half.Latta started the surge with a spinning drive in the lane. She followed with two 3s that sent the Tar Heels into the break with a 45-18 lead.North Carolina forced 16 turnovers in the first half, the same amount the Chants had been averaging per game this season.Three other starters scored in double figures for North Carolina. Camille Little had 11 points, while Erlana Larkins and McCants had 10 apiece."They are very good and we're not going to play anybody as good as they are," Coastal Carolina coach Alan LeForce said. "They deserve to be number two and I'm not too sure in my mind they might be number one."
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