7:00 PM ET, March 22, 2005
Dean E. Smith Center, Chapel Hill, NC
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) -- North Carolina's swarming defense carried the Tar Heels back into the NCAA Tournament's round of 16.Ivory Latta scored 17 points to lead North Carolina past George Washington 71-47 on Tuesday night in the second round of the Tempe Regional, helping the Tar Heels survive the opening week for the first time in three seasons.Nikita Bell added 16 points, nine rebounds and six steals for the top-seeded Tar Heels (29-3), who have won 15 straight games since an overtime loss at Florida State in January. North Carolina will play fifth-seeded Arizona State on Saturday in Tempe on the Sun Devils' home court.North Carolina lost a second-round game at Colorado in 2003 and was upset as a No. 4 seed in the first round by Middle Tennessee. But the Tar Heels cruised in two NCAA games at the Smith Center, the program's alternate home court at the southern end of the Chapel Hill campus.After shooting 62 percent to rout Coppin State on Sunday, the Tar Heels turned in a determined defensive effort that held the ninth-seeded Colonials (23-9) to 25 percent shooting."We want more," North Carolina coach Sylvia Hatchell said. "We know we've got to go into foreign territory and play in a tough environment. But this team is tough."North Carolina hasn't won 15 straight since 1997, which was the last time the Tar Heels were a No. 1 seed. And that team -- led by future track star Marion Jones -- saw one of the best seasons in program history end with a 55-46 loss to George Washington in the third round of the tournament.In that loss -- exactly eight years ago -- the Tar Heels shot just 28 percent. They returned the favor Tuesday night, holding the Colonials to 15-for-60 shooting and harassing their ballhandlers with fast, long-armed defenders.The Tar Heels forced 24 turnovers, had 15 steals and got 10 blocks -- six coming from 6-foot-3 freshman LaToya Pringle.George Washington prepared for the Tar Heels' pressure defense by running practice drills with six defensive players, but it didn't pay off."It's hard to simulate their speed and quickness," Colonials coach Joe McKeown said. "What I didn't realize was their shot-blocking. We're not a very big team and I think they caught us."George Washington stunned Mississippi in the first round by rallying from a 14-point deficit in the final 10 minutes for a 60-57 win, but the Tar Heels didn't let the Colonials string together any momentum-building baskets.The Tar Heels stayed comfortably in front just about all night, shooting 56 percent to take a 35-22 halftime lead and gradually increasing it to as many as 30 points.George Washington's top two scorers, Anna Montanana and Jessica Simmonds, had a miserable close to their collegiate careers. Montanana came in averaging 17 points but finished with just four points on 1-for-9 shooting. Simmonds, who was averaging nearly 15, finished with nine points on 2-for-17 shooting.Sophomore Camille Little, versatile enough to guard on the wing or inside, led the defensive effort on Montanana."We knew that (Montanana) was their go-to player," said Bell, the Atlantic Coast Conference defensive player of the year. "We just tried to get physical with her -- don't concede the ball, and make her take difficult shots. It worked out."The Tar Heels did get a bit of a scare regarding the health of freshman center Erlana Larkins, who dropped to her knees while running at midcourt with 12:28 left to play. Larkins was helped off the court and watched the rest of the game from the bench.After the game, Larkins -- who came in averaging 15 points and seven rebounds -- could not walk back to the locker room and had to be taken off the court in a wheelchair.Hatchell said Larkins had severe leg cramps, which caused her to be hospitalized overnight after the loss to the Seminoles. Larkins received treatment after the game, and Hatchell said the freshman would be fine.
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