UNC Runs Away From George Washington
Tar Heels head to Elite Eight after win over Colonials
March 25, 2007
DALLAS (AP) -LaToya Pringle's mom was counting the blocked shots, knowing her daughter needed three to becoming the single-season leader in North Carolina history.
She had four by halftime. And the Tar Heels pretty much had their spot in the regional finals by then, too.
North Carolina went on a 22-5 surge while George Washington's defensive dynamo Whitney Allen was on the bench in foul trouble midway through the first half, then rode that lead to a 70-56 victory Sunday night in the semifinals of the Dallas Regional.
The top-seeded Tar Heels (33-3) led by 14 at halftime, just like they did at game's end. Fifth-seeded George Washington (28-4) scored the opening basket of the second half, but never got any closer, trailing by as many as 22.
North Carolina is headed to the regional finals for the third straight year. The Tar Heels will have a 1-2 showdown Tuesday night against Purdue, which advanced earlier Sunday with a 78-65 victory over Georgia. A victory would give the North Carolina women a spot in the Final Four, something the school's men missed with a loss earlier Sunday.
"We're happy to be where we are, but we know we have our work cut out for us," UNC coach Sylvia Hatchell said.
North Carolina has been knocked out by the eventual national champions each of the past two years. Hatchell's club could be the ones cutting down the nets this time the way they counter the nation's top-scoring offense with a swarming defense.
The Tar Heels had 16 steals, many coming between halfcourt and the 3-point line to prevent George Washington from setting up its offense, and outrebounded the Colonials by 23. At halftime, North Carolina power forward Erlana Larkins had as many assists as the entire GW team, six each.
"Coach Hatchell wanted us to dominate from the beginning, and that's what we did," said Larkins, who finished with 14 points, six rebounds, five steals and six assists.
Pringle had 16 points and 14 rebounds, plus four blocks, giving her 116 for the season. The 6-foot-3 junior also is No. 2 on the school's career list, likely to move up to the top spot late next season.
"She gives us so much," Hatchell said. "She's a great shot-blocker and defensively she's so tough in there. She's just a really solid player."
Sarah-Jo Lawrence led the Colonials with 23 points before fouling out with 3:18 left. Fans chanted her first name as she went to the bench, covering her head in a towel then sobbing into it.
Kimberly Beck had six points, five steals but also five turnovers while playing all 40 minutes for George Washington.
"They trapped when we got to halfcourt and we couldn't execute our offense," Beck said.
GW never led. The Colonials also had to work hard for practically every point. Their first and only fast-break points came with 6:32 left, when they already were down 20 points.
"We couldn't take them out of what they wanted to do," coach Joe McKeown said. "I told them at halftime to get it down to 10 and we'd have a great opportunity to win. But Carolina makes you play fast and at their pace."
It was a tough end to one of the best seasons in school history. George Washington tied the record for wins set by the 1997 club and was hoping to break it by beating North Carolina to advance to the regional finals - a feat the '97 club pulled off.
Both teams showed off their defensive intensity from the start, with George Washington forcing seven turnovers early. North Carolina countered by forcing two misses and three steals.
The game was tied at 10 when Allen got her third foul with 12:57 left in the half. Eight minutes later, the Colonials were trailing 32-15 and McKeown decided he had no choice but to put her back in.
Three GW players fouled out. Allen wasn't among them. She got her fourth early in the second half but never got No. 5.
Rashanda McCants scored nine points for North Carolina, as did Ivory Latta, who came in averaging a team-best 16.3 points per game. Her total was hurt by shooting 1-of-9 on 3-pointers.
The misfiring didn't bother Hatchell, who rejected a question about Latta having an "off game."
"It depends on how you're evaluating that," Hatchell said. "She pushed the ball and did what I wanted her to do."
George Washington got to Dallas by knocking off Texas A&M in the second round. Without the Aggies as a draw, there was a crowd of only 3,875, and most of them left early in the second half, once North Carolina began pulling away.