McCants scores 28 as UNC sends Purdue to fourth straight loss

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) -- North Carolina got just what it needed before heading into a showdown with top-ranked Tennessee -- a gentle reminder that the Tar Heels aren't as perfect as their record says they are.

Rashanda McCants scored a career-high 28 points to help North Carolina easily hand Purdue its fourth straight loss, 90-72 Thursday night.

"We got a big lead and then we let up some. They shot very well," North Carolina's Sylvia Hatchell said.

The Tar Heels led 48-32 at halftime and were up by more than 20 most of the second half. But the Boilermakers made some noise on the way out.

But that may been a good lesson as No. 4 North Carolina (9-0) prepares for its first road game, Sunday in Knoxville.

"We've grown some, but we've got some growing to do," said LaToya Pringle. "We've not been on the road yet, and we've not really been in any close games. But it'll be close Sunday, and it'll be a big test."

McCants hit 11 of 20 shots from the field and five of six free throws.

"McCants was very good last year, but she's elevated her game to another level," Purdue coach Sharon Versyp said. "She's a great asset for them. They've got eight, nine weapons and just bring player after player after player."

Cetera DeGraffenreid added 17 points for North Carolina in her fifth start since taking over for injured point guard Alex Miller. Erlana Larkins scored 14 before fouling out with 6:51 to play. Pringle had 10 points and five blocks for North Carolina.

Thursday's game, part of the ACC-Big 10 Challenge, marked the first time North Carolina and Purdue have met outside the NCAA Tournament. The Tar Heels have won three straight against Purdue.

Down 59-36 after DeGraffenreid nailed a 3-pointer with 17:00 to play, Purdue never got closer than 82-64. But the Boilermakers recovered from a woeful first half of 10-for-28 shooting by hitting 15 of 31 in the second half. Freeman was 9-for-16 for the game. Versyp was relieved to see her team fight back after losing three straight in the Paradise Jam in the Virgin Islands.

"When you play the way we did in the Virgin Islands, you've just got to come back and play better," Versyp said. "I knew we would."

Lakisha Freeman hit nine of 16 shots from the field and led Purdue (2-4) with 23 points. Natasha Bogdanova had 17.

"When we've struggled offensively, Coach has said those shot eventually will fall in, and they did," Bogdanova said.

North Carolina made 33 of 68 shots from the field and helped itself to a 41-34 edge in rebounds. The Tar Heels' 20-15 margin on the offensive boards produced 17 second-chance points.