Archive for Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Latta sparks Tar Heels; Duke outlasts UConn

March 29, 2006

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— Ivory Latta flexed her muscles at LeBron James, shook hands with Pat Summitt and helped North Carolina drop mighty Tennessee out of the NCAA tournament.

She's fearless. She's fast. She's feisty.

And, she is Final Four-bound.

The littlest Tar Heel, making every big play down the stretch, put top-seeded North Carolina in its first Final Four since winning the 1994 national championship with a 75-63 victory over Tennessee in the Cleveland Regional on Tuesday night.

After complaining that their road to Boston was way too tough, the Tar Heels are packing their bags for another road trip.

"We're the No. 1 team in the nation," said Latta, "and tonight we showed it."

The 5-foot-6 (with heels on, maybe) Latta finished with 20 points, nine assists and four steals in 40 minutes for the Tar Heels (33-1), who will play Maryland in this weekend's Final Four.

The Terrapins were the only team to beat North Carolina, edging the Tar Heels by three points in overtime on Feb. 9.

Latta scored nine of her team's final 11 points, drilling a crucial three-pointer with 3:27 left and picking up the assist on the other basket as North Carolina finally put away the Lady Vols (31-5).

With the Tar Heels up 64-58 and the 30-second shot clock winding down, Latta stepped back and drilled her three-pointer from the top of the key.

"Coach told me to get the ball and back it out," Latta said. "They were just standing there. It was a dagger. I'm just glad I made it."

On North Carolina's next trip, Latta drove the lane and threaded a pass to Erlana Larkins for a layup to make it 69-60. After freshman Candace Parker's basket, Latta then made six straight free throws in the final 56.1 seconds and the Tar Heels improved to just 2-12 all-time against Tennessee, which was seeking its 17th trip to the Final Four.

The Lady Vols trailed from the outset, fell behind by 16 points in the first half and got within five before running out of gas.

Duke 63, UConn 61, OT

Bridgeport, Conn. - Alison Bales and Duke survived the tournament's toughest stop along the road to the Final Four.

Bales dominated inside with 15 points, 13 rebounds and eight blocks to lead the top-seeded Blue Devils to their fourth Final Four.

The victory snapped the Huskies' 29-game NCAA win streak in the state of Connecticut and was the first meeting between the two teams in the NCAA tournament.

Duke (30-3) joins North Carolina and Maryland to give the Atlantic Coast Conference three Final Four teams, the first time one league has had three-fourths of the national semifinals.

UConn's Mel Thomas sent the game into overtime with a jumper with 20.7 left in regulation to tie it at 55.

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