North Carolina Wins Ugly Over Notre Dame

Tar Heels rally to top Fighting Irish

March 20, 2007

PITTSBURGH (AP) -LaToya Pringle led a frantic late run and Ivory Latta made six free throws in the final minute as top-seeded North Carolina avoided the upset and rallied to defeat Notre Dame 60-51 Tuesday night in the NCAA women's tournament.

Latta scored 17 points despite an off shooting night and Pringle added 10 points and 11 rebounds for the Tar Heels (32-3) as the nation's highest-scoring team was slowed considerably but still managed to recover after trailing 38-31 with 13 1/2 minutes remaining.

Charel Allen, playing a few miles from her Pittsburgh-area hometown, scored 21 points as the Irish (20-12) threatened to pull off one of the biggest victories in school history only to falter down the stretch while being outscored 27-10.

Pringle scored on consecutive possessions during the decisive 15-0 run and, after the Irish cut it to 50-46, blocked an Allen shot before scoring herself at the other end. Latta then sealed it with her free throw shooting.

The Fighting Irish have a history of NCAA tournament upsets, going 2-2 against top-seeded teams, including a 1998 win over top-seeded Texas Tech when the Irish were ninth-seeded - just as they were this year.

But taking down North Carolina hardly seemed possible for this team, which finished fifth in the Big East, lost its only conference tournament game to DePaul and carried a three-game losing streak into the NCAA tournament. The Irish weren't ranked in the final Associated Press poll, while North Carolina was No. 2.

But Irish coach Muffet McGraw seemed to sense an upset could occur, whimsically pointing out Monday how her team's 62-59 victory over California on Sunday generated scant media coverage. To emphasize how inexperienced her team is, she brought three freshmen - and only those players - to the pregame news conference.

McGraw's team did exactly what she wanted it to do, staying close early by never letting the Tar Heels run the floor or mount any extended runs like they did in opening a 42-point halftime lead Sunday over Prairie View A&M.



North Carolina was averaging a Division I-leading 85.7 points, with a 31 points per game victory margin, yet led only 29-28 at halftime.

The Irish not only hung around, they scored six consecutive points to take the 38-31 lead that put worried looks on the faces of several Tar Heels players. On the Heels' next possession, Latta showed that concern by putting up a hurried, off-balance shot.

But just when the Tar Heels looked to be in serious trouble, after Allen hit a 3-pointer from several feet beyond the arc to make it 41-33, they regrouped and rallied to seize a 48-41 lead.

Erlana Larkins started the 15-0 run with a putback, Jessica Breland made two free throws, and Latta and Pringle each had a pair of baskets ahead of Alex Miller's 3-pointer - just the kind of flurry McGraw wanted to prevent.