Tar Heels seal first perfect ACC season with lopsided win over Blue Devils

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) -- For the second time in a month, North Carolina ran right by Duke and turned the rivalry into a rout.

Cetera DeGraffenreid scored 14 points to help the second-ranked Tar Heels beat the Blue Devils (No. 12 ESPN/USA Today, No. 11 AP) on Sunday 82-51, securing the school's first unbeaten regular season in Atlantic Coast Conference play while handing Duke its worst loss in 15 years.

Erlana Larkins added 14 points and 10 rebounds in her final home game for the Tar Heels (27-2, 14-0 ACC), who had an easy time beating their rival for the seventh time in nine meetings. North Carolina has won 10 straight games and 18 of 19 overall, earning the league tournament's top seed for the third time in four seasons.

The Tar Heels entered this season wondering whether it could keep rolling after losing Ivory Latta and Camille Little, who led them to three straight ACC tournament titles and consecutive Final Fours. Instead, North Carolina -- with freshman DeGraffenreid at the point, seniors Larkins and LaToya Pringle controlling the inside, and Rashanda McCants roaming all over the court -- managed to accomplish something even its graduated stars couldn't do by going unscathed through the league schedule.

"It's heart, and these guys right here," North Carolina coach Sylvia Hatchell said while sitting alongside Larkins and Pringle. "Everyone thought whenever Ivory and Camille graduated that we were going to take a step down. But in some ways, we've taken a step up because other people have opportunities."

North Carolina wasted little time turning this game into a replay of its 93-76 win on Feb. 4, and this one came with more dubious distinctions for the Blue Devils (21-8, 10-4).

Then, the Tar Heels ran the court at will and got just about any shot they wanted en route to becoming only the third team this decade to score 90 on the Blue Devils while earning their biggest margin of victory at Cameron Indoor Stadium in 15 years. This time, North Carolina earned its biggest margin of victory in the series since a 93-59 win in 1982.

Duke suffered its worst loss since falling 97-61 at Virginia in 1993 -- its first year under coach Gail Goestenkors, who built the Blue Devils into a perennial power before leaving last spring for Texas.

"I was telling everybody, 'I wouldn't want to play us on Senior Night,' " said Pringle, who had 14 points, eight rebounds and six blocks.

The Tar Heels didn't quite get the same open looks this time, particularly when Larkins went to the bench with two quick fouls in the first half. Of course, that hardly mattered considering the struggles the Blue Devils had finding any openings against North Carolina's aggressive perimeter pressure.

Duke shot 30 percent while finishing with a season-high 27 turnovers. And just as in the first meeting -- the Blue Devils missed their first nine 3-pointers before finishing 2-for-17 -- Duke couldn't knock down an outside shot, going 0-for-12 from behind the arc.

Chante Black had 14 points and 10 rebounds for Duke, but no other player scored in double figures.

"We did the same things we seem to do," first-year Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie said. "We didn't get the ball in the right place. We continued to play too fast. ... We need to know who we are, know what we do and we need to do it very well. And we didn't do that at all today. We played right into them."

North Carolina wasn't exactly the model of offensive efficiency. The Tar Heels shot 41 percent in the first half when the game was still in doubt, while McCants managed 12 points despite 5-for-15 shooting for the game.

Yet, in a sign of how versatile and balanced they've become, that didn't stop the Tar Heels from running away with this one.

"The good thing about our team is if somebody has an off night, even if they're the best player on the team, they're doing something good," DeGraffenreid said.

The 5-foot-6 DeGraffenreid, who has drawn comparisons to Latta, turned in her second straight strong performance in the rivalry. She scored 18 last month, and had nine to help the Tar Heels take a 41-23 halftime lead en route to finishing with six assists and three steals.

North Carolina poured it on the rest of the way, shooting 54 percent in the second half while hitting 24 of 30 free throws for the game.

"They have four people in double figures every game. We've had that maybe once or twice," McCallie said. "They've got people that come ready to play."