Nov. 25, 2005
RIVIERA MAYA, MEXICO - Led by 28 points from junior guard Ivory Latta, the seventh-ranked North Carolina women's basketball team beat No. 16 Arizona State 79-72 Friday afternoon in Caribbean Classic action at the Aventura Spa Palace resort. UNC improved to 3-0 with the win, while ASU fell to 3-1.
"It's good to get a win against a ranked team," UNC coach Sylvia Hatchell said. "Arizona State is an excellent team, very solid. We learned a lot from this game and we're just going to get better after playing an opponent like this. It was an especially good experience for our younger players."
Arizona State led by two, 22-20, with 5:56 to play in the first half, but UNC outscored the Sun Devils 17-5 in the rest of the half to take a 10-point lead, 37-27, into the break. After halftime, the Tar Heels came out and scored the first five points on a jumper by junior Camille Little and a three-pointer by senior Jessica Sell, neither of whom had scored in the first half. The 15-point advantage was UNC's largest margin of the game. After calling a timeout, ASU began to cut into the lead, getting it down to single digits at 50-42 on a three-pointer by Jill Noe, who scored 17 points in the second half to finish with a team-high 20.
It was then UNC's turn to call a timeout, and the Tar Heels came out of the huddle with a 5-0 run on a jumper by freshman Rashanda McCants and a three by Latta to put the margin at 13. The Sun Devils pulled back within seven on several occasions after that, including the final score, but were never able to get any closer.
Sophomore Erlana Larkins led UNC in rebounding with 12, the third-highest total of her career. She also had a career-high four blocks, a team-high three steals and nine points on 4-for-7 shooting. Atkinson joined Latta and McCants as the team's double-figure scorers with 10 points. Latta scored her 28 points on 7-for-14 shooting, including 4-for-6 from three point range. She also was 10-for-10 from the foul line and handed out a team-high five assists in 34 minutes on the court.
UNC shot a season-high 47.6 percent for the game, but still lagged behind the Sun Devils, who shot 56.0 percent, including 63.0 percent (17-27) in the second half. The Tar Heels outrebounded ASU 38-28.
Several freshmen made contributions in the win. McCants had 10 points in the first half and finished with 16 on 7-for-10 shooting, including a pair of three-pointers. Christina Dewitt scored six points in seven minutes of action.
Noe was one of four Sun Devils in double figures. Kristen Kovsedy added 17 points, Emily Westerberg scored 11 and Aubree Johnson had 10.
The final margin of Friday's game was the same as the last time the teams met, in the 2005 NCAA Tournament. In that game, on March 26, 2005, top-seeded UNC won in a Tempe Region semifinal game played on the Sun Devils' home court to advance to the Elite Eight. Carolina now leads the series with ASU 3-0.
UNC arrived in Mexico on Tuesday and the players have enjoyed parasailing and pool time, in addition to daily practices. The matchup with ASU was the Tar Heels' first game of the event, and they'll take on TCU Saturday in the first meeting between UNC and the Lady Frogs.
Games in the seven-team Caribbean Classic are played in a makeshift gym, a resort conference room with a playing floor in the middle and fans - about 200 at Friday's game - in chairs around the court. "Playing in a different setting like this teaches you that you really have to focus," Hatchell said. "It's not typical, but you can't let that bother you. The players know we're here to win. We want to enjoy the trip and have fun - it's a great time for the players to bond - but we're here to represent North Carolina and win our games."
Ivory Latta scored a season-high 28 points.