Latta, No. 2 Tar Heels rout Lady Tigers, remain undefeated

CLEMSON, S.C. (AP) -- North Carolina coach Sylvia Hatchell chose to believe her own eyes instead of the scoreboard.

Even though second-ranked Tar Heels remained undefeated with their 10th straight win over Clemson, 100-65, on Thursday night, Hatchell was far from pleased with the effort.

"I told them in the locker room, 'You scored 100 points, but you've got to continue to get better," Hatchell said.

Usually, it's hard to find fault when your club hits the century mark for the second time in three games. But Hatchell honed in on the Tar Heels' 25 turnovers and shoddy defense that kept things closer than expected in the first half.

"We weren't doing what we were supposed to do defensively and we gave them way too many open looks," Hatchell said. "Then our passing was really bad."

Imagine if North Carolina wasn't 19-0.

Ivory Latta scored 23 points and got the Tar Heels (4-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) going in the second half. The win over Clemson (9-9, 1-2) extended the second-best start in North Carolina history, the latest victory breaking a tie with the 1994-95 team. This group is still three victories shy of the school-record 22-0 start a year ago.

The perfect start looked in jeopardy early on.

D'Lesha Lloyd's basket with 1:39 to go in the opening half drew cut North Carolina's 11-point lead to 32-30. But the Tar Heels finished the half with an 8-0 run -- all at the free-throw line.

North Carolina and Latta picked up their play in the second half. Latta, playing her final college game in her home state, had a driving layup, a jumper and hit all the free throws after getting fouled on a 3-point try during the Tar Heels 17-7 run that pushed the lead to 57-37 with 14:26 left.

The Lady Tigers couldn't get closer than 17 the rest of the way.

Latta, a South Carolina native, got a loud cheer as she left the game with about 5 minutes to go.

"I'm just glad I had the opportunity to come down here and play in front of my friends and family," Latta said.

Latta, a senior, said the team was flat at recent practices, something she takes the blame for as a leader. Still, when you haven't lost a game, it's hard to get too down on yourselves.

"There's a lot of things we still have to work on, but we're pretty good," Latta said with a large smile. "I'm not bragging on us. Like coach said, we're not where we need to be."

Rashanda McCants' 3-pointer with 36 seconds left pushed North Carolina to the century mark for the third time this season -- and second in the past three games.

Tasha Taylor had a career-high 27 points to lead Clemson.

North Carolina's Erlana Larkins added 14 points and 12 rebounds, her sixth double-double of the season.

The Tar Heels step out of the ACC to take on No. 7 Connecticut at Carmichael Auditorium on Monday night.

At first, North Carolina had enough trouble handling Clemson's defense, let alone tangle with the best teams in the country.

North Carolina led 19-8 when Latta hit a 3 and then fed a pretty pass to Larkins for a layup with about 6 minutes gone in the game.

The Tar Heels managed only 11 points over the next 10 minutes as the Lady Tigers got within 32-30.

North Carolina had 16 first-half turnovers, only three shy of their season's average per game. Even Latta wasn't immune to mistakes. She twice had the ball stolen from her and even missed the rim on a long three-point try, with the chants of "airball" appropriately following from the Littlejohn Coliseum crowd.

About the only place the Tar Heels shined was at the foul line. That's where they hit their final 11 free throws of the half to take their halftime lead, 40-30.

Clemson, though, fell into its pattern this season of taking the court in the second half with less intensity than they left, coach Cristy McKinney said.

"We talked about it and talked about it," McKinney said. "We're going to keep working at it. But there's some personal responsibilty on them. ... At some point, they do have to figure it out."