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Fourth-ranked UNC hammers Lady Jackets

POSTED: January 17, 2008 5:03 a.m.

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — For all its missteps, fourth-ranked North Carolina turned what could have been a close game into a runaway.

Rashanda McCants scored 19 points and Jessica Breland added 18 to help the sloppy Tar Heels overcome a season-high 32 turnovers in a 99-78 victory against Georgia Tech on Saturday in the teams’ Atlantic Coast Conference opener.

"I could say I’m upset with the 32 turnovers and all that, but what I really looked at and liked was our 29 assists on 33 baskets," North Carolina coach Sylvia Hatchell said. "That’s team basketball, and that’s how you win a national championship."

Jacqua Williams set an ACC record with 11 steals, but the Yellow Jackets (13-2) failed to take advantage of those miscues, making just 29 of 78 shots.

Georgia Tech put forth "a pretty good defensive effort," coach MaChelle Joseph said.

Rebecca Gray and Cetera DeGraffenreid each added 12 points for North Carolina (14-1). Erlana Larkins and LaToya Pringle scored 10 apiece.

Larkins also had 10 rebounds in her third double-double of the season, this one despite playing with a wrap on her left hand that protected a broken bone. She helped North Carolina to a 41-39 edge on the boards.

"If Erlana is going to keep getting double-doubles like that, we’re going to see about breaking her other hand," Hatchell joked.

Williams and Alex Montgomery led Georgia Tech with 14 points each. Janie Mitchell and Chioma Nnamaka both had 13, while Iasia Hemingway chipped in 12 points.

North Carolina led 47-28 at halftime, with Pringle and McCants both scoring eight points.

The Yellow Jackets had more fouls (13) than field goals (11) in the opening 20 minutes. Despite pressure that forced 15 North Carolina turnovers at that point, Georgia Tech scored just two transition baskets.

McCants scored the last five points of the first half and North Carolina’s first six points of the second to help the Tar Heels pull away.

Georgia Tech never got closer than 55-39 in the second half and North Carolina led by as much as 91-61 with 6:32 to play.

Georgia Tech was within 10 of the Tar Heels for most of the first half, helped by a 23-18 margin in rebounds, including 16-2 on the offensive boards.

"Coming in against the most athletic team in the country, I thought we matched their intensity," Joseph said. "I don’t know of anyone other than Maryland that can match their team speed at all five positions."

The Tar Heels made 33 of 57 shots from the field, and 36 of those tries came from the paint. All of North Carolina’s made baskets were from the paint, except for five 3-pointers.

Ivory Latta, the fiery point guard who finished her career last spring as the school’s career scoring leader with 2,285 points, saw her No. 12 jersey retired during a halftime ceremony and presentation by UNC Chancellor James Moeser.

"When you look at all the things she accomplished in four years here, it’s pretty amazing," said Larkins, a teammate of Latta’s for three seasons.



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