No. 3 UNC blows away Virginia Tech with second-half run

BLACKSBURG, Va. (AP) -- After a slow first half, North Carolina waited until the second half to dominate the Hokies.

The No. 3 Tar Heels (15-1, 2-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) used a big run to break away from a tie at halftime and defeated Virginia Tech 79-59 on Thursday night.

"We finally started playing in the second half," North Carolina coach Sylvia Hatchell said. "We played like we weren't in the gym in the first half."

Erlana Larkins scored 22 points, Rashanda McCants 20 and LaToya Pringle 12 for the Tar Heels. Larkins and Pringle also had 10 rebounds apiece, and McCants had eight rebounds and seven assists.

Amber Hall and Brittany Cook led the Hokies (12-5, 0-3) with 13 points each, and Andrea Barbour and Eleanor Brentnall each had 11.

The game was tied at 37 at halftime, but Hatchell said she challenged her players during intermission and "Rashanda got it going, which made a difference."

"I think we came in underestimating their ability," McCants said.

McCants had 13 points in the second half, scoring three baskets in a 20-6 run after the break that was capped by Ceter DeGraffenreid's layup to make it 67-48 with 6:43 remaining. Their largest lead, 79-55, came on Trinity Bursey's jumper with 1:23 left.

The lead changed 14 times in the first half, but Larkins hit two straight baskets after intermission and McCants had another before Cook made it 43-39 at the 16:49 mark.

Virginia Tech coach Beth Dunkenberger praised Larkins, calling her "certainly one of the most talented post players in the nation. She hit some tough shots with people hanging on her."

The Hokies shot 46 percent in the first half to stay in it, then came apart. They made only eight field goals and shot 26 percent in the second half. The Tar Heels grabbed 32 rebounds in the second half alone and outrebounded the Hokies 54-36.

"It's unfortunate that we had a halftime," Dunkenberger said. "We had some momentum going there."

North Carolina has won eight straight and 11 of 13 in the series.