7:00 PM ET, February 25, 2008
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) -- Erlana Larkins led North Carolina past one of its Tobacco Road rivals. Then, she couldn't help but take a playful jab at another one.Larkins scored 18 points in the second-ranked Tar Heels' 85-79 victory over North Carolina State on Monday night, clinching a share of the Atlantic Coast Conference title with one game left -- the season finale against Duke (No. 11 ESPN/USA Today, No. 12 AP)."I don't know about that sharing part. I think we're going to close it out," Larkins said, winking.Jessica Breland and Rashanda McCants each added 16 points for the Tar Heels (26-2, 13-0), who went ahead to stay by outscoring N.C. State 20-10 during a 7-minute stretch that bridged halftime and withstood a late Wolfpack charge to secure their ninth straight victory.Shayla Fields scored a career-high 26 points and hit 7-of-8 free throws for the Wolfpack (17-10, 5-7), who spent the second half in comeback mode after at one point piling up as many turnovers (17) as field goals."The coaches wanted us to get to the free-throw line, and I made it my job to get us on the free-throw line and just trying to get points without time running down," Fields said.Khadijah Whittington added 12 of her 18 points after halftime and Nikitta Gartrell finished with 13 points and 11 rebounds for N.C. State, which rallied from a late 16-point deficit and made things interesting down the stretch.The Wolfpack twice closed within five points in the final minutes, the last coming when Fields' 3-pointer from the key made it 84-79 with 20.9 seconds remaining. Heather Claytor made a free throw 2.9 seconds later, and the Tar Heels came up with two final defensive stops to seal it."We didn't get very many breaks in the game, and sometimes when you're playing a great team like North Carolina, a team that is nationally ranked, you have to get some breaks," N.C. State coach Kay Yow said. "A few breaks can help you get over the hump, and we didn't have those breaks tonight. We had to just sort of make everything that we got."Pringle finished with 14 points for the Tar Heels, who overcame some horrible free-throw shooting and a rare rebounding disadvantage to wrap up either at least a share of the ACC title for the fourth time in school history and third time in Larkins' four seasons."It's a little bit sweet -- it's always nice to go out on a good note," Larkins said.North Carolina was 20-of-41 from the foul line and was outrebounded 46-38 -- just the third time this season that has happened -- yet it was enough to deny N.C. State its first victory in Chapel Hill since 2004."Normally, we're animals on the boards. We were like marshmallows tonight on the boards -- very soft," coach Sylvia Hatchell said. "But you know what, we can not rebound and shoot like that from the foul line, and then beat a really good team like N.C. State -- then maybe we're pretty good."Now, after winning for the 17th time in 18 games, the Tar Heels have six days to rest and focus on their biggest rival, the Blue Devils.North Carolina took the lead for good when Cetera DeGraffenreid weaved through two defenders to convert a fast-break layup to make it 29-28. That started a run in which the Tar Heels scored 20 of the next 30 points, and it ended on Larkins' turnaround jumper in the post with about 17 minutes remaining, stretching the lead to 47-38.
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Team Stat Comparison
|FG Made-Attempted||30-66 (.455)||32-67 (.478)|
|3P Made-Attempted||6-17 (.353)||1-8 (.125)|
|FT Made-Attempted||13-16 (.813)||20-41 (.488)|
|Fouls (Tech/Flagrant)||28 (0/0)||12 (0/0)|