CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- North Carolina coach Sylvia Hatchell didn't like her team's uninspired play in the first half against N.C. Central.
The Tar Heels (No. 10 ESPN/USA Today, No. 8 AP) responded with a much better second half during a 97-40 rout of the Lady Eagles on Monday night.
North Carolina scored the first 15 points after halftime to turn a nine-point lead into a comfortable margin. The Tar Heels (14-0) then used a 36-0 run to put the game away.
"They just had to pick it up, play harder, play with more intensity, play Carolina basketball," Hatchell said.
The defense was the key to the turnaround.
"Coach Hatchell kept telling us that our defense was number one in the country," Tar Heels point guard Cetera DeGraffenreid said. "After halftime we took more pride in the fact that we were number one in the country and they only scored eight points until the end. We just said that we weren't going to let them score."
Hatchell's team also dominated inside in the second half. They outrebounded NC Central 37-16 during that stretch, while blocking nine second-half shots.
"We ran out of steam and energy," N.C. Central coach Joli Robinson said. "We just couldn't do the things we did the first half. We did not attack the ball, we did not box out."
North Carolina led 61-38 with 11 minutes left before going on a 36-0 run that ended only with a basket at the buzzer.
Hatchell made liberal use of her bench. None of her players saw more than 23 minutes of action and seven players scored at least nine points.
Reserves Krista Gross and Waltiea Rolle scored 16 points each to lead the Tar Heels in their final ACC tuneup. They play at Georgia Tech and Boston College to open up conference play.
"At times I think, wow, we can play with anybody. If we can develop consistency we can be as good as any team in the country," Hatchell said. "We can be a Final Four team. When we're clicking, we're as good as any team we've had."
Blaire Houston scored 17 points to lead N.C. Central (2-11), which trailed 17-6 early on before going on a 12-0 run sparked by Houston to take a one-point lead.
North Carolina regained momentum behind another reserve, She'la White, who hit two 3-pointers in a span of less than 2 minutes. They led 39-30 at the half, despite being outrebounded 21-19.