Duke vs. North Carolina Women’s Basketball Today

Today the Lady Tar Heels play Duke in Carmichael Auditorium. While the Heels have already won the ACC regular season title and have pretty much sewn up a #1 seed in the NCAA tournament, This game is still important for three reasons:

1. It’s Carolina-Duke. Enough said.

2. With a win, Carolina will have completed their first ever perfect in-conference regular season.

3. It’s the final game in Chapel Hill for Erlana Larkins and Latoya Pringle, two of the Lady Tar Heels’ greatest forwards.

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 The game is on at 5:30 pm on FSN, so be sure to watch.

We Interrupt Coverage of Wednesdy’s UNC-Duke Game…

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…for coverage of Monday’s UNC-Duke game.

Why You Should Watch the Women’s Basketball Team

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Tonight, Carolina plays one of the two toughest games they will play this year, on the road against Connecticut before hosting the Maryland Terrapins on Saturday (you know, the Maryland team that isn’t supposed to suck). Here’s why you should pay attention to the lady Tar Heels, if only for this week:

  • Consistency. Most Carolina fans have been somewhat disappointed in the inconsistent play displayed by the men’s team, culminating in a bad home loss to the Terps. You will get no such play from the women’s squad. They average a 30-point margin of victory in their 17-1 campaign, and that include their only loss, a 83-79 thriller against Tennessee in Knoxville.
  • Ivory Who? You may think this statement is blasphemy, and for good reason: Ivory Latta may have been the best female player to don a UNC uniform, and easily one of the best point guards in women’s ACC history. But Sylvia Hatchell has managed to fill the shoes of the graduated Latta with three freshman guards: Cetera DeGraffenrie, Italee Lucas, and Rebecca Gray. They have combined to average 24.8 points and 8.5 assists per game.
  • Experienced Frontcourt. The two starting seniors, Erlana Larkins and Latoya Pringle, are the core of the frontcourt and the hear tof this both on offense and defense.
  • If I told you she was Rashad in drag, you might believe me. I kid, of course, but Junior Rashanda McCants has really come into her own this year. By far the most versatile player on the team, she is #1 on the team in points and steals per game, second in three pointers, third in assists and fourth in rebounds.

Enjoy this week’s games, which have huge Final Four implications.

hype it up!

UNC vs. Tennessee: Wow, I Just Had the Worst April Fools Joke Played on Me

Yesterday someone tried to pull the WORST April Fools joke on me. Last night I was watching last night’s women’s final four game between UNC and Tennessee, and I saw UNC gain a 12 point lead with about 8 minutes to go, and then Camille Little and Latoya Pringle fouled out on questionable calls. Then the Heels couldn’t buy a basket late, committed 29 turnovers for the game, and the Vols stormed back to win by 6. I can’t believe I almost fell for that joke! The game and the comeback was so believable until the Little foul, and the late turnovers. People are getting really good at this April Fools thing.

Wait…that really happened? Oh, crap.

Some thoughts from yesterday…

  • I said at some point in my liveblog that if Larkins couldn’t score, we were going to lose. With 8 minutes left, Larkins scored UNC’s last field goal of the game. I don’t remember her taking a good shot after that, scoring only 4 points for the game. Tennessee did a very good job of keeping her in check offensively, even though she had her normal monster day rebounding.
  • Rashanda McCants played the game of her life last night. 13 points, 50% FG shooting, 9 rebounds, 5 steals, a block and an assist. She seemed fairly ineffective during the regular season, seemingly not giving complete effort. I certainly can’t say that about last night. She will be very exciting to watch next year if she can have more games like that.
  • Both teams played exceptional defense last night. McCants, Latoya Pringle, Shannon Bobbitt and Nicky Anosike in particular played some of the best individual defense I’ve seen in quite some time, in men’s or women’s basketball. The Tennessee-Rutgers game should be a defensive clinic by both teams.
  • I don’t care how good you are. If you turn the ball over 29 times in a game, you can’t win. Although, Tennessee had 21 turnovers in their own right, bringing the game total to 50. Again, phenomenal defense by both teams.
  • Next year’s lineup, as I project it (assuming no freshmen): Larkins, Pringle, Jessica Breland, McCants, and Alex Miller in the starting lineup, with Iman McFarland and Heather Claytor getting substantial minutes off the bench. UNC will continue to emphasize the paint.
  • I will sorely miss seeing Ivory Latta and Camille Little in Carolina Blue. I will be rooting for them both in the WNBA. In particular, Latta is about to take that league by storm. You go girl!

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UNC Women vs. Purdue Live Blog: NCAA Regional Final

The men may have been eliminated, but the Ladies still have championship aspirations. Tonight the Lady Tar Heels play Purdue for the right to play in the Women’s Final Four in Cleveland. UNC could use some good passing and outside shooting from Ivory Latta, but the real engine of our game is in the middle, with Erlana Larkins, Latoya Pringle, and Camille Little. Purdue is lead by Katie Gearlds and Lindsay Wisdom-Hylton, who average over 33 combined points per game. The only #2 seed to survive the first weekend (go figure), don’t underestimate the Boilermakers, who are 18-3 in 21 road and neutral games.

So, let’s get it on, ladies! No, not like that. You have a sick, sick mind!

9:07 pm: How could I forget: this is a rematch of last year’s regional semifinal, a 70-68 UNC win.

2-0, Purdue. UNC doesn’t send anyone back on defense, and the pay for it with an easy basket by Lawless. Great passing by Purdue.

9:09 pm: 2-2. Latta misses the layup, but Larkins is there for the outback.

9:10 pm: 5-2, Purdue. UNC nearly forces a steal, but the overpursuit of the ball leaves Gearlds open for three.

The game has had a sloppy start. Both teams have committed unforced errors.

9:11 pm: 7-7. The pace of the game is picking up quickly. Latta hits a three, than Purdue gets a quick basket inside, and Rashanda McCants hits a floater, all in about 30-40 seconds.

9:13 pm: 9-7, UNC. As we hit the first official timeout, Latoya Pringle hits a basket inside for the Heels’ first lead.

9:15 pm: 11-7, UNC. Larkins gets the offensive rebound, the putback and the foul. She misses the free throw, but that’s exactly what UNC needs out of Erlana: the ability to get offensive rebounds and score on putbacks.

9:18 pm: 11-11. I know coach Hatchell doesn’t care about turnovers, but I do. Seeing them turn the ball over so much is really frustrating. But who am I to complain? We’re 33-3 this year.

Jessica Breland and Alex Miller are in the game for UNC.

9:20 pm: 15-11, UNC. Larkins continues to dominate the post.

9:21 pm: 15-14, UNC. Purdue hits another three before the official timeout.

9:25 pm: The Tar Heels look completely out of sync when Miller is playing point in place of Latta. They already have 6 turnovers for the game, and nearly committed a seventh.

9:26 pm: Then again, what was Ivory doing shooting that long three? Our bread and butter is in the post! Even with Latta, she’s best when she drives inside. Maybe she hasn’t been as confident to do so since her injury last year.

9:29 pm: 18-17, Purdue. That’s what I’m talking about. Rashanda McCants drives inside for a layup, but Jody Howell hits a three to give the lead back to the Boilermakers.

9:30 pm: 20-17, Purdue. Hatchell calls a timeout to stop Purdue’s momentum. UNC has not been able to run their gameplan at all in the last 5 minutes.

9:35 pm: 22-17. Purdue. Wait…did I hear that right? Purdue’s point guard is Karl Malone? Wow, they’ve really bent the rules tonight.

The Boilermakers defense has done an excellent job of disrupting UNC’s gameplan. Still, there’s no excuse for Little not having touched the ball yet.

9:36 pm: 22-19, Purdue. Pringle scores inside again.

9:39 pm: 22-21, Purdue. UNC forces another turnover, and Latta finally gets an easy basket inside.

9:40 pm: 23-22, UNC. With 4:22 left in the first half, Camille Little gets her first touch since the opening tip, and she scores easily. Nice passing by the Tar Heels, who take back the lead.

Official timeout.

9:43 pm: CORRECTION: Purdue’s point guard is named FahKara Malone, not Karl Malone.

9:45 pm: 29-22, UNC. The Tar Heels are storming now. After scoring the last 6 points, Pringle makes her first free throw and misses the second, but Larkins gets the rebound and passes to Latta, who hits the open three. UNC forces a turnover on the next possession, and Larkins scores on a putback.

9:47 pm: 33-24, UNC. 25 of UNC’s 33 points are in the paint.

Latta get another layup, but she falls hard on her leg, the one Maryland injured last year. She hasn’t been quite 100% since. I can’t forgive the Terps for that; we would have beaten them with a healthy Latta. She has to go to the locker room.

9:50 pm: North Carolina leads, 35-28 at halftime. UNC finished the half on a 18-6 run. With the exception of that run, Purdue was playing excellent defense, forcing turnovers and taking good shots, but the Heels are dominating the paint. They must continue to attack if they want to beat the Boilermakers. Of course, having Latta back in the second half will be important.

10:07 pm: 37-30, UNC. Damn. Erlana Larkins is fast for a big girl.

10:08 pm: 39-33, UNC. Latta hits a nice midrange jumper in transition, but Purdue responds with a three.

10:09 pm: 41-33, UNC. There it is again! Larkins just blew by everybody, driving in the lane and getting the easy layup. The Purdue forwards can’t keep up with her.

10:10 pm: 41-37, UNC. Gearlds hits two free throws, cutting the lead to four.

10:11 pm: 43-40, UNC. Larkins continues to score inside, but three is greater than two, and Gearlds is stroking it from the bonusphere right now.

10:12 pm: 45-40, UNC. A basket inside by–who else?–Erlana Larkins, bringing the lead back to five.

10:14 pm: Apparently Gail Goestenkors, the Duke head coach, is being interviewed to replace the retiring 900-win coach of Texas, Jody Conradt. I hope it happens. Texas will get a great coach, and Duke will suffer. YEE-AHH!!!

10:16 pm: 47-41, UNC. You have to believe that some of the Purdue players are in foul trouble by now, right?

10:17 pm: 49-41, UNC. Wow. Rashanda McCants is actually playing well tonight. She hit a very nice midrange jumper, and she now has 11.

10:19 pm: 51-43, UNC. Larkins continues to dominate the low post, getting every shot very close to the basket.

10:20 pm: 52-45, UNC. If There’s one thing that’s going to bring Purdue back in this game, it’s going to be the turnovers they are forcing.

10:22 pm: 54-45, UNC. I knew it! Wisdom-Hylton is on the bench with four fouls.

10:23 pm: What is Larkins doing shooting a long jumper? That is not her territory!

Official timeout. 11:27 left in the game.

10:26 pm: TAR! HEELS! TAR! HEELS! TAR! HEELS!

10:27 pm: 56-48, UNC. Gearlds hits another three for Purdue, but the Boilermakers still have no answer for Larkins inside. She has 20.

10:29 pm: 56-52, UNC. Purdue has been clawing back, cutting the lead to four.

10:30 pm: 62-52, UNC. Within 45 seconds, McCants hits another jumper to bring her total to 15, Camille Little steals and gets a breakaway, and Latta gets the floater and the foul inside to bring the lead to double digits.

Timeout.

10:34 pm: 64-55, UNC. Only ESPN would cut to the studio as someone hits a shot.

10:35 pm: 64-60, UNC. Katie Gearlds is on fire, and thanks to turnovers they cut the lead back to four. She has 22, but she’s also passing the ball well.

10:37 pm: The lady Tar heels are making the same mistake as the men on Sunday against Georgetown, Their game revolves around the post, yet they’re throwing up jumpers. Even worse, Purdue is getting all of the rebounds, which allows them to control the tempo.

By the way: I’m not writing an article on what went wrong against the Hoyas in this space.

Yet.

10:40 pm: 67-60, UNC. The ESPN play-by-play announcer Mark Jones, on Erlana Larkins: “They’re gonna ride her!”

10:41 pm: 69-60, UNC. Purdue double teams Larkins, but she passes the ball to an open Latoya Pringle. A stat worth being concerned about, however: Erlana has only 1 rebound in the second half.

10:43 pm: 71-60, UNC, 4:28 left. More great passing by Larkins, this time an assist to Little. She’s one if the nation’s most complete players.

10:44 pm: 71-62, UNC, 3:39 left. Last official timeout.

10:47 pm: Purdue is running the full court press. This could go extremely well or extremely bad for the Boilermakers. Let’s hope for the latter.

10:50 pm: 72-62, UNC. 2:45 left. Latta drive inside and forces Wisdom-Hylton to foul out.

10:52 pm: 72-64, UNC, 2:31 left. Oh, man. Seeing that fat guy body painted and with the letters “TA” (I’m guessing Lat-ta) on his lovehandles was just wrong. Nyaaaaaaagh.

10:57 pm: 76-70, UNC, 1:30 left. Latta is hitting her free throws, but Purdue is till scoring on every possession late.

10:59 pm: 78-70, UNC, 1:06 left. The Heels finally get a defensive stop, Larkins gets the rebound, and this game appears sealed.

11:01 pm: 79-70, UNC, :33 left. Now THAT’S what I call a block! Latoya Pringle should be on the football team, she absolutely decleated that Purdue player! I hope Butch Davis is watching.

11:04 pm: North Carolina wins, 84-72, and the Tar Heels return to the Final Four! Considering that Duke and Maryland are already out of the way, I like our chances to win the National Championship. Tennessee, Rutgers, and LSU are certainly no pushovers, but they don’t scare me as much as our ACC foes. Once again, Mark Jones ruins the moment by making an awkward reference to Ludacris and his friendship with Latta: “and the Tar Heels are shaking their moneymaker all the way to the Final Four!” Dude, that’s just wrong.

ACC Women’s Tournament: UNC vs. Maryland Live Blog

Today the Lady Tar Heels face the Maryland Terrapins in the ACC Women’s Tournament semifinals. In their first matchup, UNC dominated for the first 28 minutes, but Maryland stormed back, and the Heels needed all of their effort to hold on in from of the largest crowd ever to see a women’s ACC regular season game. Because of Duke’s dominance in the ACC regular season, this game has considerably less hype, but a #1 seed is one the line for each team, and such a seed would be out of reach for the loser, and would probably mean playing most of the tournament far away from home. Consider also that they both want another shot at the Dookies, and this game is going to be very, very intense. At least today I don;t have to worry about Mike Jones! Who? Mike Jones!

4:02 pm: Scratch that last statement. NC State just beat Dook in the first semifinal, 70-65. Since the return of Kay Yow, few teams have played better than the Wolfpack.

4:36 pm: 2-0, UNC. Camille Little gets the game’s first basket off the offensive rebound of a Latta miss. I hope that’s not an omen, Latta missing her first shot.

4:38 pm: 4-2, UNC. I swear to God, Rashanda McCants looks like Rashad in drag. Kristi Toliver scores Maryland’s first basket.

4:40 pm: 7-4, UNC. Latta buries the three this time. Shay Doron responds, but the Terps have committed 4 turnovers in as many minutes.

4:42 pm: 7-6, UNC. Coleman drives across and gets a nice layup to reduce the Heels lead to 1. Conversely, UNC has committed their third offensive foul.

4:47 pm: 9-6, UNC. McCants gets a nice basket off an offensive rebound, but she needs to be careful; she’s in foul trouble already. Jessica Breland comes in and scores to make it 11-6, UNC.

4:49 pm: 13-12, UNC. Maryland again brings it to within one. Larkins gets her first basket, but Jade Perry has scored the last four points for Maryland.

4:51 pm: 15-12, UNC. Breland scores an easy jumpshot off the inbound pass.

4:52 pm: 17-15, UNC. Today, UNC coach Sylvia Hatchell looks like some sort of Tar Heel Zebra in that suit. Someone please tell her that the elephants can still see her in the African Savanna.

4:57 pm: 19-17, UNC. Maryland ties the game for the first time, but Larkins immediately outhustles Langhorne to the opposite basket and gets an easy layup.

5:00 pm: 23-17, UNC. Larkins is absolutely dominating the offensive paint right now. She has 8 points and 6 rebounds in 11 minutes.

5:03 pm: 23-19, UNC. There is no situation in which putting Latta man-to-man on Langhorne could possibly end well.

5:08 pm: This has really been a sloppy game so far. Neither team can get any rhythm.

5:12 pm: 26-20, UNC. Ivory Latta ends my nightmare by hitting a three. I was really starting to get worried; both teams were getting good opportunities, but they did not take advantage of them.

5:14 pm: 28-24, UNC. Larkins gets another easy layup, but McCants gets her third foul.

5:15 pm: 30-24, UNC. Jessica Breland hits another midrange shot. She’s 3-3 today.

5:18 pm: 32-25, UNC. Now this is what I;ve come to expect from Ivory Latta. She steals a pass, outruns everyone down the court and gets an easy layup.

5:20 pm: 32-30, UNC. Crystal Langhorne gets a tough basket inside, and then Shay Doron gets three the hard way off an offensive rebound.

5:21 pm: 34-30, UNC. Jessica Breland is going to be a great player next year playing starting forward alongside Larkins and Pringle.

5:22 pm: 37-30, UNC. Little drains a three to extend the lead to 7 with a minute left in the first half.

5:24 pm: A nice offensive set, but Ivory, what the Hell kind of shot is that?!? you’re all alone, you don’t need a floater.

5:25 pm: The first half ends, UNC leading 37-30. UNC played excellent defense, and their offense got hot at the end of the half. If they’re able to keep the pressure on Maryland and win the rebounding battle, they should pull out a win in this game. Maryland needs to get more production out of Langhorne and Doron to make a comeback.

5:44 pm: 42-32, UNC. Larkins helps the Heels get their first double-digit lead of the game to start the second half.

5:45 pm: 42-39, UNC. The Tar Heels proceed to immediately let Maryland cut the lead to three in less than 90 seconds.

5:50 pm: 44-39, UNC. Ivory Latta drive down the baseline and gets a nice layup. We need to see more of that out of her and not as many errant threes.

5:53 pm: 44-43, UNC. Maryland has started getting the ball to Langhorne in the second half, and She has played very well in the last few minutes against Larkins.

I noticed that Breland was hurt at halftime. I don;t know if or when she will return, but I can’t help but wonder if UNC frontcourt will be worn down in her absence.

5:55 pm: Langhorne is out with 3 fouls.

5:56 pm: Latta hits a big three to bring the momentum back in UNC’s direction.

5:58 pm: UPSET WATCH: Michigan 61, Ohio St, 59, 2:21 left.

5:59 pm: 47-45, UNC. Coleman hits an easy jumpshot in transition, but Harper picks up her 4th foul.

6:03 pm: 52-45, UNC. Camille Little hits another three out of the TV timeout. Langhorne picks up her fourth foul. Maryland’s frontcourt is in real trouble right now.

6:04 pm: 54-48, UNC. Jessica Breland is back in the game. This fares badly for the Terps, who have just committed their 19th turnover.

6:06 pm: 54-50, UNC. Shay Doron makes an unbelievable play, drives down the baseline, gets the reverse layup and the foul. Shockingly, she misses her free throw.

6:12 pm: 58-53, UNC. How does UNC leave a 3-point shooter that wide open? That’s the double-edged sword of halfcourt traps, I guess.

6:13 pm: 61-53, UNC. What? Jessica Breland just hit a three! She now has 13 points, and I did not expect a performance like this from her at all.

6:15 pm: 62-55, UNC. Langhorne and Harper, each with four fouls, come in for Maryland.

6:16 pm: 64-55, UNC. Latta gets an easy layup after faking out two players to extend the UNC lead to 9.

6:18 pm: 66-57, UNC. Toliver finally gets a basket in the second half, but Latoya Pringle answers.

6:19 pm: 66-60, UNC. Kristi Toliver, who had previously been a non-factor, hits her second straight shot, this time a three. Why she wasn’t doing this before, or why she’s only doing it now, I’m still trying to wrap my head around.

6:23 pm: 66-62, UNC, 3:46 left. Maryalnd scores from the free throw line, steal the inbound pass, and suddenly have all the momentum.

6:24 pm: 66-65, UNC, 3:35 left. Doron receives a kickout pass, drains the three, and the deficit is cut to one.

6:26 pm: 67-65, UNC, 2:51 left. UNC commits another turnover (the 43rd total turnover of the game), but Maryland travels, unable to take advantage of the opportunity to tie or take the lead.

6:29 pm: 67-65, UNC, 2:12 left. A huge scrum (during which Maryland should have been called for a foul on Larkins) ends in a bloody nose for Doron, but UNC turns the ball over again.

6:31 pm: 67-67, 1:56 left. Toliver steps on the line, but Maryland clearly has the momentum.

6:32 pm: 71-67, UNC, 1:00 left. UNC gets two huge baskets, the first by Larkins in the paint, and the second an easy layup by Latta off a great rebound and pass by Alex Miller.

6:34 pm: 71-67, UNC, :51 left. Doron is back in the game, but Maryland is forced to take their final timeout.

6:35 pm: 73-67, UNC, :32 left. Shay Doron is left open for a three, but Latoya Pringle comes out of nowhere to block the shot. Latta hits two free throws to extend the lead to 6.

6:38 pm: 75-69, UNC, :15 left. Barring a complete meltdown at the free throw line and Maryland making it rain threes, this game is over.

6:41 pm: The game ends: UNC wins, 78-72. This game is big for the Tar Heels, because it not only means that they go to the ACC championship game against NC State, but Duke’s loss makes it that much easier for them to win the ACC and sew up a #1 seed in the tournament. Then again, We were a #1 seed last year and Maryland was a #2 seed, and look what happened. So I guess that doesn’t mean much. But this win is still very good for the Heels’ confidence knowing after their last three losses that they still are very capable of winning the national championship